Blind Dog with Perfect Pitch Aids Deaf Piano Tuner
September - 22 - 2009
Spoke, a frisky looking Border Collie who enjoys a romp in the park, a leather chew toy and long, leisurely afternoon naps is just like any other dog. His master, John Klunn (pronounced “kloon”) acquired him from a pound when Spoke was only six months old. Spoke, aptly named because of his ability to ride a unicycle, also has perfect pitch, the ability to name the actual musical pitch of a sound.
“But what’s so remarkable about Spoke?” you might ask. “He can give you a note with or without vibrato,” Klunn said. Most dogs are unable to sing with vibrato, putting Spoke in a league of his own. “He likes Aretha Franklin. He sings along, doing the licks, tapping time with his left paw. I guess that makes him a south-paw.”
Spoke was so well known in his native Lackawanna, New York, that he was invited by conductor Stan Kryzinski to give the tuning note for the opening of the 2004 season of the Lackawanna Philharmonic, a job ordinarily assigned to the oboist. “That would be the equivalent, you could say, of asking the president to throw the first pitch of the world series,” said Klunn. Spoke, when cued by Maestro Kryzinski’s, sang a perfect A440 much to the delight of the audience and the orchestra. The orchestra then cheerfully rendered a zesty performance of the overture, Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt* by Felix Mendelssohn with Spoke lying peacefully at the feet of the conductor.
Spoke and Klunn both lost their respective senses while touring with AC/DC. Klunn lost his hearing, while working as roadie and guitar a technician, constantly being bombarded by the deafening volume while napping in front of the amplifiers, Spoke after unwittingly gazing into a laser beam during a show.
Now, retired from life on the road, the piano tuning team of Spoke and Klunn are familiar faces in the Buffalo, NY area, servicing pianos around the metropolitan area.
“Spoke is most at home riding his unicycle. When he’s on it, he’s in the zone. Otherwise he’s pretty ordinary.”
“I’ll be at the piano, adjusting the string and Spoke will circle around the room listening. He’ll say ‘Nooo, noooo, noooo,’ until I get the note just right. Then he’ll say, ‘Okayyyy.’ I don’t want to give you the impression that he can talk or anything, he’s just sort of howling. He’s not, like, a magic dog or anything. Problem is, I can’t hear him. Wish I could. I sort of have to read his lips.”
*’Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage’