The way we interact and discover the world in which we live is through our 5 senses and one of the most important ones is our sense of hearing or sound. Even many people who are deaf are able to connect with the world through an interpretation of sounds through vibrations. Indeed the total lack of sound can even have an effect on us, causing hallucinations.
People have been creating instruments to make sounds and music since the beginning of time. So far we seem to be the only species to make music, but scientists have been researching animals musical tastes. Have a look at this list of really odd musical instruments, are you interested in trying to play any of them?
Created in 1850 by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, the Octobass is a massive double bass that stands at 3.48m tall. It has elaborate foot-pedals to make it playable. It was created to give low “rumble” type sounds to orchestras. Only two playable Octobass exist today.
The Great Stalacpipe Organ
Invented in 1956 in the Luray Caverns in Virginia by Leland W. Sprinkle. The Great Stalacpipe Organ works by tapping on ancient stalactites with rubber mallets, all connected to a console that looks like a traditional organ. Apparently people had been tapping on the stalactites for years before the organ was actually constructed. It’s the largest “instrument” in the world.
This fantastic project has turned the sea itself into a musician by using the man-made sea barrier in Zadar, Croatia as a ginormous organ. Pipes underneath the promenade react to the waves as they flow in, creating harmonious sounds that tourists all over the world flock to come and listen to.
Singing Ringing Tree
Part sculpture, part musical instrument, the singing tree on a hill overlooking Burnley in Lancashire, it was completed in 2006 and is made up of a series of pipes. When the wind blows through them, it produces a haunting sound. Give it a listen. Must be creepy on a dark windy night if you live close by!
Perhaps the very first electronic instrument. Invented in 1919! The theremin is remarkable for its uncanny sound, the way it is played without touching it, and last but not least for its use in science fiction movies. Leon Theremin went down in musical history for this instrument. It was used in Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack for The Day the Earth Stood Still amongst others.
The Glass Harmonica
Invented by Benjamin Franklin, this instrument consists of a number of glass bowls nested or fitted inside of each other. They slowly spin on a rod and the musician plays them with wet fingers producing a sound that you will be familiar with if you ever ran your finger over the top of a crystal glass. Some of the great composers such as Mozart and Beethoven arranged pieces to include the glass harmonica but it is not a common instrument.
Want to buy one? “The glass harmonica is expensive and difficult to make,” explains William Zeitler, for many years one of a handful professional glass harmonica players. “And there’s no such thing as a cheap student model. You have to buy one at $40,000, which means you have to be really committed.” source
There are some fun outdoor instruments you can play if you head to Montjuic in Barcelona. The park Jardines de Joan Brossa has big wooden instruments that can be “played” by kids.
In fact many children’s parks across the world have large instruments available for kids to play with. Keep an eye out for them on your travels.
If you want to see more interesting instruments, check out the lists below: