Maurice Ravel -The Swiss Watchmaker

Maurice Ravel was born on March 7, 1875, in the small fishing village of Ciboure in the Basque region, near the Franco-Spanish border.  His father, Pierre-Joseph, was a Frenchman of Swiss descent. Pierre-Joseph, a distinguished engineer, met and fell in love with his future wife, a young and beautiful Basque, Marie Delouart, at the time she worked on the Spanish railways.  A few months after Maurice's birth, the family moved from Ciboure to Paris. The parents of Maurice Ravel, Pierre-Joseph Ravel and Marie Delouart. Maurice had a happy childhood. The parents encouraged their two children - Edouard was born in 1878 - to follow their vocation. Maurice's inclination was music. He started music lessons at the age of seven.  Unlike the parents of other composers, Pierre-Joseph viewed positively the prospect of a musical career and sent Maurice to the France's most important musical college, the Conservatoire de Paris in 1889. In the same year, the Paris Exhibition brought toget


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.