Have you ever seen an instrument that’s so large that the audience experiences it from inside the instrument? If not, then meet the Earth Harp, an instrument that turns the environment into an integral component. It’s been named the “longest stringed instrument in the world” by Guinness World Records.
Invented by William Close about 20 years ago, each Earth Harp adapts to its surroundings. On its first incarnation Close ran strings about 1,000 feet from one side of a valley to the other, where four large resonators and bridge about the size of a 2 grand pianos were mounted to the ground.
Since then he’s installed the instrument all around the world in concert halls, museums, and giant festival stages out over the crowds. But it didn’t stop there, he’s also used skyscrapers, mountain peaks, cathedrals, arenas, sports stadiums, airport terminals and public plazas as part of his instrument.
Close continues to develop the the Earth Harp, constantly trying new designs. These include over 50 different bridges and resonating chambers, but he’s settled on 15 designs to choose from when he’s called on to install a new project.
The strings of the instrument are made of a special spring tempered brass wire and are 0.035 in diameter, which is roughly the thickness of spaghetti. Each string has approximately 30 lbs of tension which is actually not that much. Installations are usually between 16 to 24 strings in total, sometimes more if the installation allows. Close plays the Earth Harp by running gloves with violin rosin along the strings.
You can hear more Earth Harp on the EarthSymphony webpage.