Saturday, January 19, 2019

Saving Perla

Heads-up. "Perla" is not a cat.

Perla is a marimba. I saw her on a Facebook swap-and-save page, posted as a xylophone. By her surroundings, I worried that she might find her way onto a curb or in someone's garage for kids to play with until she fell apart.

Why would I care about a marimba? Gordon and Christy have been long-time Owl House friends. We worked together to get their two gorgeous outdoor ferals fixed, and their two kittens rehomed. They then adopted two kittens from me. They are both well-known musicians, and Gordon is a world-renowned marimba player and composer; he's probably the only "world-renowned" person I shall ever know, so I enjoy saying it.

Therefore my tug of conscience to save this instrument. I sent the photo over to Gordon to see if the asking price (quite low if it turned out to be playable, but too much if it was trash) was worthwhile, and he was curious about it too, so off I went to a foreclosure-purchased house full of trash and treasure, to pick it up. I almost balked because A) it was much smaller in person than I expected and I wondered if it was even a "real" instrument and B) it was COVERED in spider egg-sacs. Needless to say I did not leave it in my car overnight and she spent the night on the porch. The next day I cleaned off the worst of the webs and brought her inside.

She was dusty, watermarked, and dried out. The bars (keys) had been strung with electrical wire instead of cord.

Christy and Gordon came over bearing pizza. Gordon gifted me with three pairs of mallets, and explained that this marimba was likely from Guatemala. He told me what to purchase to restring it, and luckily I had purchased an acceptable oil to clean it up (Lemon oil, no wax). He explained all the odd pieces and parts. There were nine posts (through which the cord passes to hold the bars up) that needed to be replaced, so he took them home to cut new ones. Good thing, as that's not something I would have been skilled enough to do.

So I cleaned. And cleaned. And look!

I'm still cleaning, oiling, and tightening and replacing screws for the frame. Christy tells me Gordon has completed the posts, but we are due for a huge snowstorm this weekend, so Perla will have to wait a bit to be re-assembled and re-strung. Then we'll get to hear what she sounds like! She will of course be off-pitch. The bars could be sent off to be tuned ($60 an octave), and perhaps I will some day. Basically I just wanted to save her from a possible junking, and it will be fun to learn to play a bit and have her in the house, so I probably won't invest in that. Then one day I'll likely give her to someone who expresses interest in owning her. She's too small for anyone serious about learning to play, but for a child learning percussion or someone who just wants her in the living room, as I do, she would be perfect.

I'll be sure to post more when she is playable.

Here is a link to a very cool info-graphic (in Spanish) on this type of marimba.

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