Odd instruments to shock and amuse

Odd instrument comprised of singing stonesFor millennia, humans have used every conceivable item as an instrument to create music. We bang on things, blow on things, pluck things, affix electrodes and microphones. We use natural objects, found objects, deconstructed objects, repurposed objects. Is there anything we haven’t thought of? Here is a partial list of interesting sources from fire to roads that we’ve used to create unique, odd instruments. Continue reading →

The audible language and singing of plants

T.M. Glass and the audible language of plantsDid you know plants make music? I found that out today when I stumbled on an exhibit of digital photographs by T.M. Glass, hosted at Ontario College of Art and Design University gallery space on Richmond Street. The enormous photographs are breathtaking. From ten feet back, they look like perfectly composed photographs (which they are). Floral arrangements spring from exquisite vases, usually set against a black backdrop. But up close, the images have been digitally manipulated with miniature swirls that recall the undulations of Van Gogh. Continue reading →

What if your house was a musical instrument?

The Symphony HouseAn unusual house overlooks Lake Michigan. Known as the Symphony House, it not only emphasizes natural sounds but can be played like an instrument. Architect David Hanawalt and sound artist Bill Close designed the 6,200 square-foot home for Steelcase heir Jonathan Wege and his wife. At a cost of $2.4 million, the concrete-and-wood structure blends Japanese and Scandinavian architectural design. (I’ve included a video that provides a tour of the house’s unique musical properties.) Continue reading →

The Great Stalacpipe Organ sits deep underground

Great Stalacpipe Organ in Luray CavernsDeep in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountains sits Luray Caverns. The cave is fairly impressive as caves go. But more remarkably, it is home to the Great Stalacpipe Organ. The organ is a lithophone: basically, an instrument that produces sound by hitting a rock. In this case, solenoid-activated rubber mallets strike stalactites of varying sizes, each chosen to correspond to tones of the musical scale. An organ console with a keyboard (pictured at left) activates the mallets. Leland Sprinkle designed and implemented the organ in 1956 over three years. Continue reading →