One of Aldolphe Sax's original alto saxophones

When Richard Wagner first heard the saxophone he apparently said it sounds like the word “Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge”, a word he invented himself. (Source)

I used to play the sax and can’t say that it ever sounded like that!

Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge is also the name of a record label based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

9 thoughts on “Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge

  1. Do I smell an urban myth? ‘Klankewerkzeuge’ should be ‘Klangwerkzeuge’, and ‘Reckankreuzung’ makes no sense at all.

  2. Lukas: ok, but usually such invented terms make some kind of sense and are funny (cf. ‘Klofußumpuschelung’ by Max Goldt).

  3. I have never thought of instruments sounding like a sound, but there is a lot embedded in this concept.

    For example, does the instrument itself have some physical properties that influence the word? Or are we talking about a particular sequence peformed by a specific instrument and only heard not seen?

    If we regard the human vocal instrument as a whole (everything from the lungs to the lips), would we ever venture to guess what “it” sounds like, and to put into a word?

    Finally, I have thought about certain notes and chords in color, which is a form of synesthesia, but I am not sure where the “red” of red begins and where the word “red” ends.

  4. This isn’t a new question, but I suppose my interest here is in the relationship between the word and the sound. On the one hand, there is the question of mimicking the general characteristics of a musical instrument, and a lot acapella singers probably just “know” how to do this instinctively like everyone knows that cats “meow” (at least in English). For example, bass notes, kick drums, etc probably are expressable with bilabial plosive ps and bs, and if I had to just guess of the top of my head, I might mimick a sax with some breathy, airy labiodental fricatives like fs, vs, pfs, bvs. Just a guess.

    On the other hand, if we want to represent the sound of an instrument as a whole, apart from the characteristic notes it produces, I would first ask if it is even possible to separate the instrument from its sounds. Can we encompass an instrument and all its possibilities into a single word? Are we really asking the question, “What should this instrument be called?” Would it be a problem to NOT put external sounds (like musical instruments, in nature, etc) into words, and just let them exist beyond the limits of human sound and vocabulary?

    As far as musical synesthesia goes, it is a phenomenon in which certain notes or chords or musical pieces make you think of a certain color. So if you play a C major chord on guitar, maybe you think orangeish rusting brown, perhaps, and D major is a shade of blue. It makes for an interesting conversation with musician friends, but I am not sure why this happens. Furthermore, when you think or hear a D major chord on guitar, is it this combination of conscious knowledge (seeing the shape of the chord, knowing and hearing that is D major, seeing that it is a guitar) that illicites the vision of the color blue, or perhaps the vision of the word “blue” in the mind?

  5. There does not seem to be any reference to Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge in German on the web, except for links to the label. As said before it makes no sense and probably was said by Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle- burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shönedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler- aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm, the famous composer that the world fails to remember.
    Pseudo-German gibberish, that’s all it is.

  6. No one should be too impressed with long German words. Most of German’s unbelievably long words are ordinary compounds (ordinary in English, that is) which, by convention, are grouped without spaces in German but grouped with spaces in English. Consider Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften with 39 characters. The English translation could be a sharply contrastive phrase or it could be a string of nouns analogous to the German “word”, namely legal protection insurance companies. English could use the German spelling convention and have the long “word” legalprotectioninsurancecompanies which is almost as long with 34 characters, impressing foreigners and daunting learners. Semantically, the German and the English string of nouns may nonetheless be single words. Anyhow, I understand that Latin and Greek didn’t originally use spaces at all. Imagine a single word as long as an entire lengthy text (contrived by perspective alone)!

  7. @Jakob

    I agree that the “longest word” conversation is unimpressive and a little bit absurd. Check out this wikipedia entry:

    How far are we willing to take this argument, though? I mean, if a lot of long words and big concepts are just compounds of smaller and/or simpler pieces, we have just have to down-scale and apply the same question to the basic building blocks of these words and ideas. What, for example, is the longest “single word”, and does size here even matter?

    There is also the idea of holism, which would suggest that something new and unique emerges from a compound of single elements. For example, “legalprotectioninsurancecompanies” and “legal protection insurance companies” not only look different on the page, but may be uttered differently, and the nuance, whatever it may be, may be different.

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