Five Instruments on the Cusp of Rockstardom
Electric-guitar sales boomed in the 1960s, thanks to Clapton and Hendrix. In the 1980s, synthesizers were popular enough to blow up the likes of A-ha and A Flock of Seagulls. Beck upped the status of two turntables and a microphone, and everyone knows that a band's drummer gets all the ass.
The instruments of the moment are banjo, mandolin and fiddle. Thanks to groups like Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men and Trampled by Turtles, these twang-tastic stringed instruments are no longer just for Appalachian jam sessions. Somewhere, Woody Guthrie is smiling. But what other instruments are poised to make the leap from supporting act to headliner?
The musical saw makes a mournful sound. There are no bouncy tunes being performed by this staid instrument. Which is perfect, because we live in serious times. The musical saw is ready for its close-up, Mr. DeMille.
Ever wondered why Jeff Mangum is a genius? It's because, in part, he's figured out how to make his Neutral Milk Hotel songs crushingly sad: by featuring musical saw bawling its eyes out behind Mangum's enigmatic poetry.
A musical saw player, Christi Mikles, visited my home recently. She was passing through town with the band she was accompanying. I sat in the kitchen one morning listening to her skillfully bend the notes on her instrument from the other room. I imagined its heartbreaking story while I sipped my black coffee. It was sublime.