Marimba , any of several varieties of xylophone. Marimba is one of many African names for the xylophone, and, because African instruments bearing this name frequently have a tuned calabash resonator for each wooden bar, some ethnomusicologists use the name marimba to distinguish gourd-resonated from other xylophones. The xylophone was taken to Latin America by African slaves or possibly originated through pre-Hispanic contact. There it became known as the marimba , and it has remained a popular folk instrument in Central America. The orchestral marimba, with metal resonators, was developed in the United States in the early 20th century by J. Deagan and U. Players may hold two sticks in each hand to play up to four notes at a time. Extremely large marimbas are known as xylorimbas. In the midth century, new compositions and ensembles flourished. Compositions for orchestral marimba include a concertino by the American composer Paul Creston and a concerto by the French composer Darius Milhaud.
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If you're not familiar with the marimba, here are some of the most often asked questions about it, and relevant information. The marimba's roots are ancient, extending to early human instincts to strike wood, stone and metal slabs and objects that produced musical tones. These practices existed in various forms in the cultures of Africa, Latin America and Asia and are all, in some sense, forerunners of the modern marimba. The first, crude beginnings of the marimba were several slabs of wood placed on sticks set over a hole in the ground which served as a resonating chamber. Later, slabs of wood were suspended over large gourds or wooden boxes which served to enhance the tone. Sources differ on the specific area of the world in which the marimba originated; however, the frontrunners in this debate are Africa and the highlands of Guatemala. It is interesting to note that symbolic and functional uses of the African marimba are very much integrated into their culture.
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According to oral history, the story of the marimba began a long, long time ago in Africa, where holes were dug in the ground, wooden bars were made to cross over this hole, and the bars were struck to produce sound. That is, a sort of xylophone arose that worked by having the sound produced by wooden bars resonate within holes. Subsequently, gourds were attached to the undersides of the wooden bars. Now it was the gourds that served as resonating chambers for the sound. Instruments like this are still familiar as traditional folk instruments. Interestingly, the Zulu tribe of South Africa is said to have legends of a goddess named Marimba who created a xylophone with gourds attached. The instrument that was the ancestor of the marimba crossed the sea with African people and arrived in Central and South America. The gourds were swapped with resonator pipes made of wood. Eventually, still in the Americas, the resonator pipes that were attached started to be made of metal, resulting in the modern marimba.
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