The world is full of strange musicians, but even weirder are some of the axes they wield. Oddee presents a review of some of the funkiest-looking and craziest-sounding instruments ever to squeak, honk, buzz, hum, or bray. Watch and listen!
Guest Post by Steve Moramarco
Take an already strange instrument – the theremin is played by waving your hand in the air – and stick it inside a dead honey badger, and you've got the Badgermin! Sonically, it's no weirder than a theremin (used in many Sci-Fi movies because of its other-worldly sound) but adding the badger just takes it over the top. And, unlike some of these strange instruments, you too could actually own one – just contact creator David Cramner via the link below. In the meantime, watch!
Ok, this one's just plain stupid… or is it?! This fully-functioning Stratocaster/work of art by Japanese artist Yoshihiko Satoh, has 72 strings of pure power. You might need an extra arm or two to fully rock out, but imagine walking out on stage with this baby strapped around your neck. Talk about Rock God…!
3The Viennese Vegetable Orchestra
Not just one strange instrument, but an entire ORCHESTRA! This enterprising group shops for the veggies in the morning, carves them up in the afternoon, and plays them in concert that evening. And THEN they chop them all up (minus the parts they touch with their lips) and serve a delicious soup to the audience. In a sense, this is probably every child's worst nightmare.
4The Stalacpipe Organ
Forget John Holmes, THIS is the world's largest organ. Located in the Luray Caverns of Virginia, this instrument technically known as a Lithophone (an instrument made from rock) was invented by Leland W. Sprinkle. Legend has it, in 1956 he noted the musical resonance in the cave when his son banged his head on a low-hanging stalactite. Over several years, he found every tone on the Western musical scale on the formations, and painstakingly honed them for perfect pitch, and attached a small mallet to each. An electronic keyboard controls the organic organ, which can be heard throughout the 64-acre cavern. Watch and listen:
5The Glass Armonica
Leave it to ol' Ben Franklin to create this wonderfully odd instrument in 1761. Inspired by the sound of glass bowls (played by stroking the lid of a wine glass filled with water,) Franklin created this version, which reversed the concept. Thirty-seven bowls are arranged on a spindle and slowly spun. The player merely touches the glasses with wet fingertips. With Franklin's invention, more than two tones could be played at once, producing some hauntingly beautiful chords. In its heyday, more than 100 composers wrote for the instrument, including Mozart and Beethoven. No one is sure why it fell out of favor, but changing out one of the tones proved to be a real pain in the glass.
6The Musical House
A man's home is his castle, and now, also his instrument. The Wege house, located on Northern Lake Michigan, is an experiment in living, created by Architect David Hanawalt and Bill Close, Sonic Installation Artist. Built like some kind of Byzantine harp, strings wind along the walls and through the halls, allowing family members and their guests to pluck or strum at random. Talk about living in harmony!
Ever since Nicola Tesla unleashed the spectacular Tesla Coil in 1891, it has been transfixed in the imagination - where would monster movies be without one?! In 2007, some enterprising inventors harnessed the low-voltage, high-frequency currents of the coil, and created the Zeusaphone. Named after the Greek God, this bizarre instrument electrifies even the most boring recital and is available for the mere mortal to purchase. Check it out:
Yeah, a lot of these gadgets are flashy and expensive, but what about something for the lonely cowpoke? Violinist/artist John Rose made it a goal to play and record the lilting sound of fences around the world with just a rosined bow. Here he is playing a barbed-wire fence in the outback of Australia. If you think about it, many fences are, in essence, just giant stringed instruments ready to be stroked. But be careful, that F-sharp can be really… er… sharp!
9The Singing Ringing Tree
Atop a barren hilltop in Lancashire, England, stands this most unusual musical sculpture. Designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu, the “tree” is comprised of a series of pipes, cut and stacked in a spiral fashion. When the wind is blowing (and when isn't the wind blowing in England?!) a mesmerizing tone echoes through the hillside, like a lost sound effect from a Pink Floyd album.