Musical Oddities – Weird Instruments

Every so often, strange and twisted people sit down and invent a new and frequently totally insane musical instrument.  So I thought it might be fun to have a look at some of the weirder examples of this particular human quirk.

From what I can see, these seem to fall into two broad types, the first being instruments that can be played and used with other musicians playing on more traditional instruments, and the second type are those devices that are played by the wind, water or other non-human forces.

I thought I would have a look at a couple of creations that are “played” by the wind or water first, just to start us off before I head off into the truly strange world of instruments intended to be played by humans.

The Zadar Sea Organ.

So, to begin with, here is a rather beautiful concept, a sort of organ that is played by wave action. This is what Wikipedia has to say about it…

The Sea organ (Croatian: Morske orgulje) is an architectural object located in Zadar, Croatia and an experimental musical instrument, which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps.

Actually, it says rather more, but the main points are in the quote above.   Now to listen to the rather pleasing noise it makes as the waves go in and out.   I would love to hear what it sounds like in a real storm, when the waves are huge… but I can find no recordings of that, sadly.

Beautiful and haunting isn’t it?  I could happily sit on that sea-front all day simply listening to the sound of the actual waves and the sound they generate in those tubes….   What a wonderful concept!

The Singing Ringing Tree.

The next one is visually beautiful too, and the noise (music?) it makes has much the same ethereal quality as the sea organ, but yet it has a very individual voice, that is for sure.

So, for both your aural and optical pleasure, here is the Singing Ringing Tree from near Burnley in the English Pennines.

Isn’t that the most amazing and peaceful sound you have ever heard?   Can you imagine standing near to that construction, gazing out over the beautiful views of the Pennines with that calm music surrounding you….

By the way, in spite of its appearance of being huge, it is actually only 3 meters tall,, surprising isn’t it?

There is a quite long entry in Wikipedia about this small wonder, but here are the main salient facts relating to it, with a couple of useful links as well….

Described as a Panopticon, this sculpture commands spectacular views above Burnley from Crown Point. It creates an eerie, unearthly music as the wind whistles through the steel tubes. This strange sound increases at sunrise when the wind becomes more intense. It is one of the few sculptures to have won a Royal Institute of British Architects award. The Singing Ringing Tree was designed by Tonkin Liu Architectshttp://www.tonkinliu.co.uk. This video was created by Jonathan Brind http://www.baa.me.uk/ For location see seehttp://www.burnley.gov.uk/site/script…

Now we shall move on to instruments intended to be played by humans, and thus – more or less – capable of being played in bands or orchestras…

Octobass

So to start with, a double bass on Steriods.  The Octobass is the official name of this monster.

Firstly here is a bit of Bach so you can hear it in action…  Though obviously, it is capable of producing sounds below the lower limit of most computer music systems, so those you won’t hear I am afraid.

Fun eh?  Not exactly a musical high point I fear, but sort of pleasantly silly and properly ponderous.   And gives one a very good idea of how damn big that Octobass actually is.. Makes those normal Double Basses seem tiny doesn’t it?

And now here is another video, in which a professional Bassist explains exactly what sort of an instrument it is, and demonstrates various aspects of the monster.   While I was writing this bit of the post, a friend suggested that the Octobass would be a suitable instrument for Andre the Giant…   Not a bad thought I feel.

andre-the-giant-next-to-a-boxer1

Sorry about that aside, but it seemed worth repeating.

And now here is that video I mentioned above……..

Amazing instrument isn’t it?   A very simple concept, just double the size of an existing instrument and voila!  You have a new sound.

Hyperbass Flute

Another ludicrously deep and oversized instrument, this time it is a flute that has definitely outgrown its body.    Here we have the ultimate (I hope) flute,  15 meters of tubing make up this absurd instrument and At 16 Hz, its lowest note, which is below what is generally considered the range of human hearing (20 to 20,000 Hz), it is decidedly silly.  Why on earth would anyone want an instrument that plays below the lower limit of human hearing?   To please passing Whales perhaps?

Here is a rather bad video showing its maker assembling it in order to show James Galway how wonderful it is, and to show him how to play it…  Hmmmmm….   Why do people make videos on their mobile phones in portrait and not landscape I wonder…

And now for something totally wild and wonderful!!!

The Pyrophone

Here we have a seriously dangerous instrument, an organ that instead of being driven by air pressure, creates its music by means of fire.   To make this clear, here is a small video in which the principle is clearly explained..

Not much I can add to that, so now I shall show you the thing in actual use.. a weird and wonderful concert, including a big and rather beautiful version of this instrument…

Not sure what I can add to this…..   Fun though isn’t it?

And now, enough of this serious stuff, here are two Sousaphone players (apparently college kids) having a bit of fun……………

I know, not tubas and certainly not a “Solo”, but fun nonetheless……

Share with us:

Have you any favourite silly or odd instruments you might like to share with others here? Please do drop us a line if you do.

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