Category Archives: Science

On Giraffe Bones and Deadly Dances

Tuesday I spend the whole morning at the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen (Part of the Natural History Museum of Denmark), armed with various clubs, playing on a wide range of bones. Even an Elephant’s thigh bone (it is huge!).

Quite extraordinarily I had been granted access to the bone collection of the Zoological Museum in order to find a bone with the perfect sound for use in the 2nd symphonic poem of »Cantabile«; the »Cortège & Danse Macabre« at the first performance on June 10th.

In the »Danse Macabre« I have specified the playing on real bones (!), but since human bones have too little sound (and probably would be slightly… what shall we say… “improper” to play on), I needed to find a different kind of bone. A bone with sound, but still clearly “looking” like a bone.

And, O, did I find that. The Giraffe thigh bone has an amazingly loud, sharp tone. Just what I had imagined when I wrote the piece and specified the use of a bone. It’s big. but not as big and heavy as the Elephant bone by far, so it can be handled by just one person. The Elephant thigh bone would have required the use of two percussionists  – one to hold it, and one to play.

So I ended up borrowing this giraffe thigh bone from 1930.

An unusual musical instrument