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Music Grass

Genesis 4:21: “And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.”

Reed instruments like the oboe and clarinet trace their ancestry back to instruments made by the Egyptians more than 4,000 years ago. An Egyptian relief dated to about 2700 B.C. shows a clarinet- type instrument.

This means that humans have been dealing with the problem of making reeds work in reed instruments for thousands of years. Natural reeds can crack, break and make awful honking noises as they age and wear out. Today, many musicians use plastic reeds. Still, professional musicians reject the sound of plastic reeds as inferior for public performance. As one professional musician put it, “They sound kind of like a duck with laryngitis.”

Reeds are fashioned from the giant reed plant. This large grass grows to a height of seven or eight feet. Reeds are made from the sections between the nodes. However, a seven-foot stalk may have only 25 sections that are the right dimensions for an oboe reed. After harvesting and curing, a process that takes nine months, sections are selected on the basis of size and color. One plant may produce only one oboe reed. The goal is to obtain a reed that has a crisp tone over a wide range of notes. Out of a box of 100 reeds, which can cost $150, the professional musician may find two that he considers excellent.

Making music is one of the earliest human activities described in the Bible. The mention of music early in Genesis shows us that the earliest people were just as human as people today.

Prayer: I thank You, dear heavenly Father, for the gift of music. Help us to use music to praise You and rejoice in Your generous goodness to us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Notes: Schmidt, Karen F. 1991. “Good vibrations: musician-scientists probe the woodwind reed.” Science News, Vol. 140, Dec. 14, p. 392.

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