Tuesday, September 11, 2012

William Close and the Earth Harp

“Architecture is frozen music.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

William Close Plays the Earth Harp
This quote sums up musician and inventor William Close’s career. Close has been pushing boundaries with what actually constitutes a musical instrument by turning architecture into instruments and instruments into architecture.

Close’s first major experiment with music and architecture came with the creation of a bridge made of strings. The stringed bridge spanned 1,000 feet across a valley. Vibrations across the strings resonated in the valley below turning the landscape into a giant musical instrument. The instrument later became known as the Earth Harp and has since been constructed in various other architectural masterpieces, including the Coliseum in Rome, the Space Needle in Seattle, the Grand Theatre in Shanghai, and a 9th century castle in Italy.

Behind the Earth Harp at the Strings Music Pavilion
After building the Earth Harp, Close explored other unique instruments. His tinkerings led to the invention of over 100 original musical instruments. Below are a few of the instruments I saw first hand this summer.

Drum Orb
The Drum Orb is a spherical cage with all kinds of different sized and shaped drums attached to the outside of the cage. The orb is suspended in space and spins while it is being played. The drummers become dancers as they move around the orb.

Drum Orb
Percussion Jacket
Synthesized drum pads are sewn into a jacket, creating a musical instrument you can wear. When plugged into an amplifier, the jacket is played by beating on the pads.

The Aquatar is made up of two guitars, attached in the middle by a longer sounding board fitted with strings. The Aquatar gets its name because it has a water-like sound.

Drum Jacket and Aquatar
Chime Sword
An arc connects two sets of chimes making a musical baton. It can be played either by spinning it in the air above your head or running your fingers through the chimes. I’m not sure if it was the dazzling sight of the chime sword spinning around or the mysteriousness of the chime sound, but this instrument was my favorite.
Chime Sword
Since seeing William Close perform this summer, I’ve followed his progress on the hit TV show America’s Got Talent. Howard Stern said, “You, my friend, are doing everything America's Got Talent is looking for,” and I hope that America agrees. The Finals Performances is tomorrow night, so be sure to tune into NBC to watch all the finalists and cast your vote!
Special thanks to Corey Kopischke for photographing William Close and MASS Ensemble this summer.

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