The Zither Expose


When I was a kid, I always wanted to learn to play piano. So, naturally, I was doomed to play the Zither, a traditional Austrian folk music instrument that is best known from the wavering music theme so essential to setting the spooky mood in the sewage system under Vienna in the Orson Welles movie "The Third Man". This piece of music is about the coolest ever written for the Zither (in my humble opinion), and, actually, quite difficult. Needless to say, I never mastered it. Because, you see: having to play Zither can only be described with one word: TORTURE. You have to press on a fret board with the fingers of your left hand and pluck the string you're pressing on with the thumb of your right hand, while plucking a bass string and at least three harmony strings with the remaining fingers of your right hand. The strings are mostly metal and therefore not conducive to tender baby-skin stubs such as mine, the sound is quaky and tinny, and you have to practice way more than my 10-year-old self could ever manage in order to build up your calluses. My primary school teacher and mentor at the time gave me way too much credit for my efforts by stamping me "Iron Liz with leather fingers". As far a cry from the truth, if there ever was one! In fact, I tried to get by on as little effort as possible (just touching the strings sent jolts of agony and angst down my spine) and winged it for as long as I could. Until finally one day I went off to boarding school where I lied my way into getting piano lessons at last. I have not looked back.
Check out a video of "The Third Man - Harry Lime Theme" played by Anton Karas

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