IX: Lakshmi’s Music

Who would have thought a snake could play music?  But Lakshmi taught herself to do it all by herself.  Snakes (except for roscoe) don’t usually care about music, but Lakshmi has always been different.  While the other snakes hunted in the back yards, she mainly just ate the meatballs and kibble I provided and spent most of her time indoors listening to music on YouTube.  I encouraged her, maybe because she reminded me of my own childhood, when I didn’t care for sports and preferred to spend my time reading. 

Lakshmi listened to all kinds of music, but what she liked most were the cello and the saxophone.  She dreamed of being able to make music herself on instruments like these, but both instruments were impossible without hands – no way even to hold them, much less do the difficult and complicated fingering.  Lakshmi told me she felt like my friend Hilary Price’s snake Leonard, who wanted to knit but couldn’t find a place to start.

But then one day she came across a video of an old-time performing seal.  They used to play tunes on sets of air horns by biting squeeze-bulbs or pushing electric buttons.  Films of these performances are rare now, but here’s the one Lakshmi found:  https://tinyurl.com/arianna412aThe horns come 36  seconds into the video.

Lakshmi watched over and over as the seals worked the air horns, and thought she could do that.  She asked me to find her a set of air horns like the seals used.  But performing seal acts are not popular any more, and so these are not easy to find, and to find a set of horns tuned to a proper scale is almost impossible.  So I asked if an electronic keyboard would do.  Lakshmi was very pleased – a keyboard was more than she had hoped for. 

So I ordered one for her, and when it came she quickly taught herself to play simple melodies like Happy Birthday and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  Soon she was learning more complicated music she found on YouTube – songs like Stardust, Danny Boy, Potato Head Blues, and many others.1 but it was still not satisfying to play only melody, one note at a time.

Her breakthrough came with a video showing how to play a Mozart minuet on the piano.  This was classical music, 250 years old and still played often today.  This video showed that only two notes were being played at the same time, a high one and a low one.  Lakshmi figured out that she could hit both these notes herself, the high note with her nose and the low note with her tail.2 this would be a good time to watch that video: https://tinyurl.com/arianna412j

Lakshmi played the Mozart minuet beautifully for me, and found a lot of other music on YouTube she could play two notes at a time.  She was very good at being able to play what she heard, and at reducing more complicated  music to two notes at a time.  She wanted to try three and four notes at a time, and could maybe have done this with another snake to help.  Diego did help sometimes, and so did Alejandra and Xzrwжmkяq  and DeWayne – sometimes.  But they were only doing Lakshmi a favor – like most snakes they were not much interested in music, and so they lost interest quickly and wouldn’t practice or rehearse and went out to hunt.  Lakshmi couldn’t depend on them. 

But I bought her a digital sampler, and that solved the problem.  Now she could play the nose notes, record them on the sampler, and then play the tail notes and the nose recording and at the same time, so all four notes could be heard at once.  She was accompanying herself!  After that there was no stopping Lakshmi (not that I wanted to stop her).  She plays very difficult music now, mixing as many samples as she needs.  If the music is too fast for her, she records at half speed and then plays it back at double speed.  She works the electronic controls like the keys, with her nose and tail. 

Also you can set electric keyboards to sound like all kinds of instruments other than a piano: a cello, for instance, or a saxophone, the instruments Lakshmi had always wanted to play.3 and with a sampler and the kind of keyboard I got for her, Lakshmi can record any kind of sound (even a sneeze or a burp) and play it on the keyboard as musical notes, high or low, whatever she wants.  So she  has been making songs out of hisses.  You have to hear them to believe how good they sound.

Now she is adding percussion for rhythm, and is creating a piece for a jazz trio, two notes at a time.  Most people (including me), although they have ten fingers, cannot play even one part of a jazz trio – Lakshmi can play all three with only a nose and a tail, and some electronic equipment.  It shows what someone can do with talent and determination and patient practice.

  1. Here’s the video she learned Stardust from: https://tinyurl.com/arianna412b.  Here’s the video she learned Danny Boy from: https://tinyurl.com/arianna412h.  And here’s the video she learned Potato Head Blues from: https://tinyurl.com/arianna412f.  
  2. People play the nose notes, in red on the video, with their right hand, and the tail notes, in blue on the video, with their left hand.
  3. Here’s the video Lakshmi used to learn Orfeo’s Lament by Christoph Willibald Gluck: https://tinyurl.com/arianna412e.  She still listens to it a lot.