An Assortment of Unusual Musical Instruments
The Nano Guitar. It’s ten microns long (about the size of a cell) and has strings so small they can only be plucked by lasers. The nano guitar was developed by scientists at Cornell University in 1997. The sounds from the strings’ vibrations (they’re 50 nanometers, or about 100 atoms wide) are so high in pitch, they’re inaudible. You won’t find one at your local music store; to get a good look at it, you’d need a scanning electron microscope. Or you can go here: http://www.lutherie.net/nano.guitar.aip.html .
Concrete Piano In the late 1800s in the United States, concrete gained popularity as a building material, with some creative dreamers envisioning concrete homes, furniture, and pianos. Apparently the pianos sounded fine, though they required frequent tuning.
Theremin Invented by Russian Leon Theremin in 1919 and most well known for its role in the ethereal soundscapes of 1950’s sci-fi films, the Theremin consists of two sensitive antennas: one that allows the user to control volume, the other pitch, by waving his or her hands nearby. They’re currently popular in avant garde music and pop. Moog makes one that’s not only excellent, but affordable. The Moog Theremin can be found at fine online retailers like Sam Ash and Guitar Center.
Electronic Bagpipe With fingering similar to the mandolin, this instrument is housed in clear plastic. Inventor Michael O’Neill reportedly puts it to good use in live performances in bands and on the streets of Berkeley (to see what it looks like, check out http://www.oddmusic.com/gallery/om13050.html ).
Ice Instruments At the annual Ice Festival in Norway, artists get together to play marimbas, harps, and other instruments made of ice. Here is some video from 2010.
Giant Tuba This super-sized device is capable of sounding the second lowest note on a typical piano, causing deep vibrations in anything nearby. According to www.oddmusic.com, the Giant Tuba is made of more than 34 feet of tubing and was engineered by London’s Besson Corp. in the early 20th century.
Armonica Named for the Italian word for “harmony” and invented by Benjamin Franklin, the Armonica premiered in London in 1762. Featuring 37 glass bowls arranged in descending size from left to right, this unique instrument gained motion by means of a foot operated treadle. Franklin, George Washington, and Mozart were known to play them.
Sequential Resonation Machine As a sequencer using pipe organ like pipes to generate sound, this invention of Joseph Casbarian creates organic music never heard before. The antique looking wood case is a nice touch. To see and hear this amazing device, visit: http://www.oddmusic.com/gallery/om24600.html
Do It Yourself Synth Kits Businesses like “Music From Outer Space”(http://www.musicfromouterspace.com/ ) provide what you need to build your own synths, ranging from ring modulators, weird sound generations, mini synths, and guitar synths. Make like Moog and do it yourself!