How far will you go trying to get the right tone? Here are 10 strangest music instruments.
The daddy of weird instruments and one of the very first times electronics were used specifically to create music. Notable for its eerie sound, contact-less playing technique and its use in science fiction movies, Leon Theremin (great name) went down in musical history for this one. It was used memorably in Miklós Rózsa's soundtrack for Spellbound and The Lost Weekend, and Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack for The Day the Earth Stood Still.
9) The Singing Ringing Tree
Found high above Burnley on the Pennine moors, this 3m-high sculpture uses the prevailing westerly winds blowing across the ends of the pipes to generate discordant and haunting sounds to accompany the view from Crown Point. It was designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu in 2006 and won a Royal Institute of British Architects award
8) Pikasso Guitar
Its name derived from its likeness in appearance to the cubist works of Pablo Picasso. The instrument is a harp guitar with four necks, two sound holes, and 42 strings. It has a unique wedge-shaped body. The original was built in 1984 for jazz guitarist Pat Metheny.
7) The Cat Piano
Back in the days when PETA didn't exist, there was one of the most fucked up ideas the humanity had ever come up with. Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century German Jesuit scholar, documented the Katzenklavier ("cat piano"). It has a normal keyboard in front of a line of cages, each of which has a cat trapped inside. When a key is pressed, a nail is driven into the tail of one unfortunate feline, which naturally screeches. It was designed to shock psychiatric patients into changing their behavior, rather than be something Monteverdi could be played on. Fortunately, it was probably never built.
The zeusaphone or thoramin, is a form of plasma speaker. It is a variation of a solid state Tesla coil that has been modified to produce musical tones by modulating its spark output. The resulting pitch is a low fidelity square wave like sound reminiscent of an analog synthesizer.
5) The Great Stalacpipe Organ
Leland W Sprinkle was an electronic engineer whose day job was at the Pentagon. Sprinkle spent three years, armed with a small hammer, a tuning fork and an angle-grinder, searching for good-sounding stalactites in Luray Caverns, Virginia, and then altering them so they played in tune. The resulting organ can play 37 different notes, with the reverberance of the cave adding an ethereal quality.
4) The Janko keyboard
The Janko keyboard is an alternate musical keyboard layout for pianos designed by Paul von Jankó in 1882. Each chord, scale, and interval has a consistent shape and can be played with the same fingering, regardless of its pitch or what the current key is. If you know a piece of music in one key you can transpose it simply by starting at a different pitch because the fingering is the same in every key.
3) Musical ice
Terje Isungset, a Norwegian drummer and composer, makes instruments out of ice extracted from frozen lakes by chainsaw. His ice trumpet flares dramatically outward and has a primitive sound, like a hunting horn. The ice xylophone evokes like the clinking of an empty wine bottle being struck with a soft mallet. Any old ice won't do: only the right microscopic structure will create a beautiful ringing.
What do you get if you cross a dead badger with a theremin? Dubbed the Badgermin, this intimate combination of deceased mammal and weird electronic musical instrument will tantalize your ears as well as your eyes.
A surprisingly diverse range of musical instruments can be made from vegetables, including pan-pipes, recorders and clarinets made from carrots. While these instruments can carry a tune, they mostly fail to create a pleasing sound. A notable exception are the instruments created by the Vegetable Orchestra of Vienna, who play concerts all over the world – and then, at the end, give audiences fresh vegetable soup.
Know any weirder music instruments? Share your entries in the comment section below!