Johann Straus II - Vergnügungszug (Pleasure Train), op. 281

Johann Strauss II , known for his waltzes and lively compositions, had a unique approach to his creative process. He consistently sought contemporary and relevant themes to serve as the driving force behind his new musical compositions. This approach ensured that his work remained fresh and connected with the audiences of his time.  One notable instance of this creative approach was the composition of this polka, composed in 1864. This piece of music was specifically crafted for a summer concert held in the picturesque Russian town of Pavlovsk. It's fascinating to note that Strauss drew inspiration for this composition from the world around him. In this case, he found it in the emerging technology of the time, namely, the steam locomotive. The composition itself is a testament to Strauss's ability to capture the essence and energy of the subject matter. The rhythm of this dance piece mirrors the rhythmic chugging and movements of the old-fashioned steam trains that were prevale


Maracas (almost always used in a pair) is an important instrument of the Latin American orchestra. The distinctive rustling and soft rhythmic tone seem to represent the dancers' own movements.

The first maracas (now known as shakers) were dried pumpkins, whose seeds rattled when they moved. Later, they emptied the pumpkins from their content, scraped them and filled them with larger seeds or gravel to improve the sound of the instrument. Pumpkins were often selected on the basis of their shape - the neck could be used as an organ handle.

Maracas belong to the category of "empty rattles". They are among the oldest instruments and have been used for various purposes. They were associated with magec, used in religious ceremonies, as coordinators of the rhythm of dancers and more recently as rattles for babies.

From Cuba
The pumpkin rattle is their most widespread form. In places where pumplkins do not grow, the instrument is made from other materials. Ceramic versions are common and are often given the form of animals. Rattles made of turkey and wild duck skulls have been found in escavations of prehistoric tombs, while dried toad animal tome filled with pebbles was previously used by North American Indians.

The material used for filling also varies. In cases, only the seeds of a particular plant are acceptable - in parts of Central Africa is the canna plant. More recently, plastic pellets or even lead pops have been used, giving a heavy sound to the instrument.

How Maracas work
The sound produced by the maraca is determined by the size of the instrument, the material of its construction, as well as the weight and size of the pellets it contains. A certain degree of tonality can be differentiated between organs, although maracas can hardly reach tonics that would be characterized in more detail, beyond "low" or "high".

The maracas are usuall played with a shaking of the hand forward, with the right hand generally leading and interpreting the powerful beats. During the performance, the performer often uses many instruments of different tonality, to add the element of variety to the rhythms of the music.