BALTIMORE — “17 years ago right here, I came in the backyard and I said this is amazing.” Ken Kolodner thinks back to 2004 when he walked outside his home in North Baltimore to hear the high-pitch mating call of millions of Brood X cicadas. “It was an incredible sound and I thought I’m going to come out and play music with the cicadas.” Kolodner is a professional musician, specializing in the fiddle and the hammered dulcimer. He created the song using the hammered dulcimer, which is an ancient instrument believed to be the precursor to the piano.
Within an hour, he came up with a tune he called “Cicada Reel”, as a musical ode to the insects’ short time above Earth to procreate and die. “I added lots of drone-y notes, repeating notes where I kind of hung on those notes for a long time and tried to match a little bit of the sound of the wave of the cicada by droning along and then changing the drone,” he said. “At the very end of the tune, I do a little thing where I drag my hammer down and hit a low note and that was kind of like the end,” he said with a laugh. “This is the end of the cicadas. See you in another 17 years!” When Kolodner first came up with the song, there was no easy way to share it with the world. Facebook had just started in 2004, and Twitter, Instagram and YouTube weren’t around. So he recorded it on a CD and forgot about it.
Then when the Brood X cicadas emerged this year, he thought it would be fun to try playing “Cicada Reel” again.
“I had to go listen to the CD. I didn’t remember it exactly right so I might have changed it now.”
“It was a total surprise when people started [watching and said] this is great this is so cool!”
So will there be an encore presentation of Cicada Reel 17 years from now?
Kolodner said he’ll be 83 and is planning on it. “ I hope to make it that long and then I can do it again when I’m 100 so there ya go!”