Low-Tech Notes

Hohner melodica

Hi, since I'm not on any social media, and since I have never sent a text message or a Tweet or owned a cell-phone, I am on the "information dirt road." (I have also never owned a camera or taken a photograph, except when strangers and tourists have asked me to.) So thanks to you for finding me and stopping by. I realize that you are meeting me more than halfway.

Lately I'm busy composing the last few tunes for the as-yet-untitled Opus No. 3, which will be another collection of instrumental tunes, on which I am accompanied by the extraordinary group of Dennis Diken on drums, Paul Page on bass, Lance Doss on guitar, plus some special guests. The recording and mix engineer is Greg Duffin, assisted by Mario Viele. It's all coming along nicely, and I hope to have it out the door later this year.

(Technologically, I'm so backward that I may as well release it on a 78 rpm disk or an Edison wax cylinder.)

This perverse relationship with technology is not based on principle. I'm no Luddite. I am just helpless in the face of technology. This is strange for a keyboard player to say in the year 2014. I like the fat, buzzy sound of a Moog, but a digital sequencer leaves me cold. Even a Hammond organ is way too mechanical for me. It's so big and heavy, I can barely cope with it. The simpler the better.

The melodica is as simple as it gets, and I've been playing more melodica lately. It's a wonderful instrument, and in my opinion it's the instrument of the future. If we ever get solar flares that knock out the electricity, the melodica will be the go-to keyboard instrument. You just blow into it and play beautiful chords and melodies with your right hand.

Last Dec. 21, in observance of the winter solstice, Make Music New York organized a melodica parade, and about 25 of us melodica players, led by ace melodicist Jean Baptiste, marched from Columbus Circle to Times Square, entertaining and irritating locals, passers-by and visitors alike.

That was successful enough that a couple of weeks later, our makeshift melodica troupe was invited to play at Gracie Mansion for Mayor Bill de Blasio. So the melodica is gaining momentum.

The melodica runs on the respiratory power that you put into it. It weighs about one pound. You can carry it anywhere -- on the subway, in the overhead rack of the airplane. One trick I learned from watching Mr. Baptiste is that if you don't use the mouthpiece, you can get a better tone -- more breathy, less reedy.

This really is the instrument of the future, in my opinion. If the power goes out, or if sunspots wipe out all our digital information, the melodica will prevail. It's so easy that even I can handle it, and that is high praise. You can buy a 32-key Hohner melodica brand new for about $60. So go get one, then get in touch with me, and we'll jam.

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