Having grown up surrounded by them, we tend not to realise there’s something deeply weird about most musical instruments. Violins are basically wound intestines stretched and scraped with horsehair. Drums; the flayed hide of an animal pulled taut and hit with sticks. And let’s not even get started on the Didgeridoo. The point is, even the simplest instrument can appear strange when viewed objectively. So allow us to take a moment to appreciate the mind-bending insanity that went into designing:
The Sea Organ (Zadir, Croatia)
Built on the edge of the Adriatic Sea, the Sea Organ is a network of tubes that converts the flow of waves into a continuous, ethereal drone. Designed by architect Nikola Basic to liven up Zadir’s modernist concrete seafront, it manages to capture the rhythm of the ocean with more grace than even the sublimest David Attenborough documentary.
Musical Roads (Japan, South Korea, USA)
It sounds like Jeremy Clarkson’s dream: an instrument you can play with your car. But Japan, South Korea and America’s ‘singing roads’ actually have a deeper purpose; functioning as tourist-magnet, warning system for inattentive drivers and, um, Honda advert respectively. Grooves in the road, spaced at precise distances create the rhythm, with depth of cut responsible for tone. The exclamations of drivers unknowingly hitting these roads for the first time have sadly not been recorded.
Nano Guitar (Cornell University, USA)
Proving, once again, that scientists have waaay too much time on their hands, the Nano Guitar is a baffling ten micrometres long and can only be played with lasers. To appreciate exactly how tiny that is, find a ruler, measure a centimetre and then image it 1000 times smaller. Featuring strings a mere 100 atoms thick, it even comes in two varieties: classic and deluxe.
Created by Céaser López (presumably after seeing Desperado a few too many times), this entry is the only one that seems designed specifically to perform the most-bitchin’ solo ever. Somewhere in this glorious decadence resides a deeply-felt point about the gun trade; but honestly, how many of you who saw the photo didn’t immediately imagine yourselves rockin’ out before a crowded stadium?
The Singing Ringing Tree (Burnley, UK)
A vast cacophony of pipes stretching high over Lancashire, the Singing Ringing Tree is powered only by wind rolling over the bleak Northern landscape. It’s strange, near-musical lilting evokes feelings of awe, isolation and the sublime, all within a twenty minute walk from Burnley.
The Great Stalacpipe Organ (Virginia, USA)
The largest musical instrument on Earth covers a hefty 3 ½ acres deep below Virginia. Designed by ex-Pentagon man Leland W. Sprinkle, the Organ works by bashing rubber mallets against stalactites, which each give off an individual note. Weird doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Musical Tesla Coils
Combining anything with lightning is scientifically proven to make it 100% more badass, and music is no exception. Know what could make it even more badass? Adding Doctor Who.
Symphonic House (Lake Michigan, USA)
In the Wedge family home, strings stretch along walls, down stairwells and through corridors; creating a giant instrument any family member can play at any time. The only inhabitable instrument on this list, Bill Close and David Hanawalt’s experiment in sonic architecture is also one of the strangest buildings on Earth.
Famously proposed by Dr Johann Christian Reil as a way of treating patients who had lost the ability to focus; the Katzenklavier would undoubtedly grab even the most-hopeless patient’s attention. Operated by a mechanism that would yank each cat’s tail in time to create a recognisable tune, it remains to be seen whether the mere sight of it would then send the patient mad again in an entirely novel way.
The Loophonium (Liverpool, UK)
Designed by Fritz Spiegl as a piece of surrealist artwork, the Loophonium has been played on at least one occasion: the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s April Fools concert in 1960. The Liverpool Museum’s website reliably informs us that, at the end of the concert, the seat was raised as a sign of respect for the national anthem.
Author: This article was compiled by DV247, Pro Audio specialists and suppliers of Fender products. There are so many fascinating instruments out there, can you think of any more?
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