10 Most Unique Instruments – Part 1
1) Celestial Harp
Built by Robin Armstrong, the Celestial Harp is a 72-string harp based on the circle, square, and spiral. A large instrument, the musician must move around it to play, or multiple musicians must play it. The strings can be played in any manner—plucked, strummed, hammered, played with a slide, etc.
The original idea for the Celestial Harp was to play a person’s horoscope musically. The Celestial Harp embodies the dream of expressing the spirituality of the heavens musically. It brings together the Zodiac, the Pyramid, the stars in the sky, the Solar System, and the I Ching. The sound of the instrument varies greatly due to the styles of the people playing it and its vast musical versatility.
The didgeridoo is a wind instrument created by the Australian Aborigines 1,500 years ago. Authentic didgeridoos are constructed from hardwood, usually eucalyptus or a natural bamboo, naturally hollowed by termites. They remove the bark, trim the ends, and shape the outside. They then apply beeswax to the mouthpiece to provide a seal when played.
Traditionally, only men can play the didgeridoo. Women do play, but only informally, and it is strongly discouraged. In the South East of Australia, the gender prohibition is most strongly adhered to. The Aborigines of the South East consider the playing of a didgeridoo by a non-indigenous woman “cultural theft.”
In 2005, a study in the British Medical Journal found that regularly playing the didgeridoo strengthens muscles in the upper airway, and so helps to reduce snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Only after the player learns the circular breathing technique do the muscles begin to strengthen.
3) Fire Organ
The fire organ uses the laws of thermoacoustics to produce sound. The pyrophone, like traditional pipe organs, has one pipe for each note and is activated by a piano keyboard. The sound that originates from the fire organ is created by the temperature difference across a set of channels in extremely close proximity. Propane flames on one end and liquid nitrogen on the other maintain the temperature of the fire organ.
4) Glass Armonica
Benjamin Franklin built the first glass armonica in 1761 after hearing water-filled wine glasses played in 1758 in England. Franklin stacked 37 bowls horizontally along an iron spindle, which a foot pedal turned. The player’s moistened fingers touching the rims of the bowls creates the sound. Franklin recommended using powdered chalk on the fingers to produce a clearer tone. The glass armonica made it possible for ten glasses to be played at once, which is impossible with the standard musical glasses.
Invented by Yuichi Onoue of Tokyo, Japan, the Kaisatsuko has two strings with a hand crank that spins a nylon wheel to vibrate the strings. These vibrations produce the constant drone sound of the strings. The wheel operates as mechanical bow. The sound can be altered by different techniques and musical styles. Although there are no frets, slide techniques work well to give the Kaisatsuko the sound of a traditional Asian instrument.
Have you ever heard of any of these? Come back tomorrow to learn about 5 more unique instruments!