My teen is a pretty low-maintenance guy who doesn't ask for a lot. Hell, he'd had holes in his sneakers for two months before we even knew he needed new shoes! Thus, when he does ask for something, I usually get it for him. But I was not prepared for this request:
Huh? Kazoos are toys, silly things that go in goodie bags. I “accidentally” break them because they're so annoying. It is played by singing or speaking through a tube. This activates an air current that causes the membrane to vibrate and results in a nasal sound. It's so easy to play that toddlers can do it. But the teen wasn't asking for liquor or cocaine so off I went, searching through the house for one. I eventually wound up buying the damn thing at a music store that sells serious musical instruments.
Which brings me to the question: is a kazoo an actual musical instrument?
Apparently it is! I only learned this because shortly thereafter, Junior played me some kazoo music from an amazing musician named Tsuko G. Check out one of his YouTube videos:
Okay, so it's not Beethoven. Tsuko G plays mostly video game music, but it's actually good.
This instrument of derision, known for its silly sound and found mostly in novelty music, circuses, and carnivals has its origins in the African mirliton. It was made out of the horn of a cow with the membrane consisting of the eggshells of spiders (source). The kazoo was patented in the U.S. in the 1900s and there's actually a Kazoo Museum in South Carolina.
What's fascinating about the kazoo (two words I would never have thought could go in the same sentence) is how it allows all sorts of musical instruments to be imitated. The soprano kazoo can mimic a high-pitched flute while the alto kazoo can sound like a clarinet or trumpet. Similarly, the tenor kazoo resembles the sound made by a saxophone, the baritone version mimics a french horn, and the kaboom kazoo can sound like a tuba.
My son has been playing his kazoo for about two weeks now. Some of it is silly stuff, parts of songs that find their way into his head. But some pieces are ones he plays on his clarinet and they sound quite nice. I've woken the kids up to kazoo music ("Reveillee") while Junior somewhat tenderly played his sister a lullaby which ended on such a silly note that it had us all giggling.
I'm glad I indulged the Boy in his request for this little $1 instrument. It's given us many hours of pleasure, both silly and non. Who knew a kazoo could bring one family such joy.
What do you think of kazoo music?