A Little Knüppel Music

A friend of mine, well-aware of my love for both classical music and the bizarre, recently passed along this fantastic YouTube video. It’s a fellow performing Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in F minor (K.386) on a Chapman Stick.
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My first reaction (and I quote): “What the heck is that thing?”

Described by its living creator — how many instruments can say that? — as “a member of the guitar and bass family” and featuring “a full two-handed piano technique applied directly onto the strings,” the Chapman Stick combines “the techniques of four major instruments – guitar, piano, bass and drums.”

Again, its creator, Emmett Chapman:

The technique came before the instrument, a sudden discovery while playing my guitar in 1969. No known guitarist, bassist, or fingerboard player had ever before used a basic three and four fingered technique in each hand simultaneously to play independent lines, scales and chords. It was unique, yet basic and logical – both hands aligned parallel to the frets and perpendicular to the strings, the fingers of each hand fitting sequentially into selected fret spaces at any point along the board.

The “tapping” is a peculiar and distinctive sound. I think I like it, but I’m not sure how much of it I could tolerate at one time. By way of comparison, a fortepiano version and one performed on the harpsichord. And here’s Stickmeister Robert Culbertson with something a bit more (and a lot less) traditional.

(Not knowing German, I have no idea if my attempt to be clever in the post title actually works: A Little Night MusicA Little Knight Music → A Little Knüppel (Stick) Music. But since hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young and of physical weakness in the old, I’m rollin’ with it. Besides, the friend who got this post going in the first place also speaks German. So I expect to know shortly.)

About Joseph Susanka

Joseph has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since graduating from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. A grateful resident of Wyoming, he spends his free time exploring the beautiful Wind River Mountains, keeping track of his (currently) seven sons, and thanking his lucky stars for Netflix.


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