Yes, you can make music with lightning. The wonderful singing Tesla coil known as the Zeusaphone (sometimes called a Thoramin) modulates the spark output to produce a low-fidelity square wave that can then be musically manipulated. The musical tone results directly from the passage of the spark through the air.
According to Zeasaphone.com, the concept was “Trademarked in 2007, Zeusaphone™ brand Tesla coils were the world’s first high-performance musical Tesla coils to be brought to the commercial market. Since the invention of the Tesla coil by Nikola Tesla in 1891, never before had a Tesla coil product achieved such an incredible level of precision and control as to be able to amplify music through lightning-like arcs exceeding one million volts of electrical potential. Thus, the revolution in Tesla coil technology began with the Zeusaphone™.”
Believe it or not you can actually buy one of these things and there are several models to choose from. The prices go from around $2,000 up to $8,500. In case you’re wondering, the system is controlled via MIDI.
It’s not something that I’d expect to hear on the next Katy Perry or Coldplay record, but I’m sure there are film composers out there already scheming about how to get this sound into a movie. In fact, according to the instrument’s wikipedia page, it’s already been used in Disney’s 2010 Sorcerer’s Apprentice and by Bjork on her song “Thunderbolt” (an appropriate name if there ever was one).
Check it out in the video below.