Sunday, October 7, 2007

Glass Armonica

The glass harmonica, also known as glass armonica, '"hydrocrystalophone" or simply armonica (derived from "armonia", the Italian word for harmony) is a type of musical instrument that uses a series of glass bowls or goblets graduated in size to produce musical tones by means of friction, making it both a crystallophone and a friction idiophone). Despite being played with wet fingers, the sound is produced by vibration of the solid glass, so that the glass harmonica is not a hydraulophone even if played completely submerged in water.

Benjamin Franklin invented a radically new arrangement of the glasses in 1761 after seeing water-filled wine glasses played by William Deleval. Franklin, who called his invention the "armonica" after the Italian word for harmony, worked with London glassblower Charles James to build one, and it had its world premiere in early 1762, played by Marianne Davies.

In Franklin's version, 37 bowls were mounted horizontally nested on an iron spindle. The whole spindle turned by means of a foot-operated treadle. The sound was produced by touching the rims of the bowls with moistened fingers. Rims were painted different colors according to the pitch of the note. As were dark blue, Bs purple, Cs red, Ds orange, Es yellow, Fs green, Gs blue, and accidentals white. With the Franklin design it is possible to play ten glasses simultaneously if desired, a technique that is very difficult if not impossible to execute using upright goblets. Franklin also advocated the use of a small amount of powdered chalk on the fingers which helped produce a clear tone in the same way rosin is applied to the bows of string instruments.

Mozart, Beethoven, Donizetti, Richard Strauss, and Camille Saint-Saëns all composed works for the glass harmonica. European monarchs indulged in it, and even Marie Antoinette had taken lessons on it as a child from Marianne Davies. One of the best known pieces is the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the ballet The Nutcracker; Tchaikovsky's first draft called for glass harmonica, but he changed it to the newly-invented celesta before the work's premiere performance in 1892.

Here is a documentary about Glass Armonica

"Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" on the Glass Armonica


Monday, October 1, 2007


The Dubreq Stylophone is a miniature electronic musical instrument invented in 1967 by Brian Jarvis. It consists of a metal keyboard played by touching it with a stylus - each note being connected to a cheap voltage-controlled oscillator via a different-value resistor - thus closing a circuit. Some three million Stylophones were sold, mostly as children's toys. Rolf Harris appeared for several years as the Stylophone's advertising spokesman in the United Kingdom.

Here is how it works and sounds:

Hexstatic - Stylophone

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Aeolian harp

An aeolian harp (or æolian harp or wind harp) is a musical instrument that is "played" by the wind. It is named for Aeolus, the ancient Greek god of the wind.

The traditional aeolian harp is essentially a wooden box including a sounding board, with strings stretched lengthwise across two bridges. It is placed in a slightly opened window where the wind can blow across the strings to produce sounds. The strings can be made of different materials (or thicknesses) and all be tuned to the same note, or identical strings can be tuned to different notes.

Here is an example (wav-file) of the wind playing from the, which builds these instruments.

And here is a clip, by Sarah Deere "Jones Celtic and Aeolian Harp"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

vOICe Java Applet

Voice - is a free online soundscape synthesizer and sequencer. This Java applet allows you to draw your own 64 × 64, 16 grey-tone image and immediately hear the corresponding 64-voice polyphonic visual sound being synthesized on the fly! See and hear how The vOICe mapping works for your input. The 64-channel sound synthesis maps the image into an exponentially distributed frequency interval for a one second visual sound.

An interesting thing, though it is not easy to produce something well sounding.
On this animation page you can see how different images sound.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The best of Theremin

This a great theremin cover of a song by Gnarls Barkley. Just great.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Hang - a steel drum

A hang is a steel drum. It is struck with the fingers, the sound is generally much softer than a steel drum, and can be played in many ways to produce a large variety of sounds.

The hang was devleoped in 2000 in Bern, Switzerland by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer (PANArt Hangbau AG) and introduced at Musikmesse Frankfurt in 2001. Its name comes from the Berne dialect word for hand.

The hang is typically played resting on the players' lap, and can also be played on a stand. The inner note on the bottom dome is the bass note, and when played in a dampened way allows change in pitch. Seven (in the bass version) or eight (treble version of the Hang) notes are tuned harmonically around a central deep note. The hemispheres are hardened by a process known as gas-nitriding.

In the spring of 2006 the hangmakers presented a new generation of Hanghang (plural form of Hang). The new instruments have an upper surface of annealed brass and a ring of brass around the circumference.

Here is an introduction video to Hang:

A couple of videos of a good hang drummer

Hang Drum- Manu Delago

And a great video of Hang Drum played live by Beate Gatscha.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dub Selector!

If you like dub - Infinite Wheel - Dub Selector is definitely a worthwhile flash game. It has 9 parts, all of them generate some dub and reggae tunes. I personally like vol. 3 and vol. 8 Burning Babylon. Takes some time to get used to, and sounds pretty well after a while. Enjoy :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Car Music Project

The project began in 1994 as an attempt by Bill Milbrodt to "turn a car into music that can be expressed in written form and, therefore, performed and interpreted by more than one musician or group of musicians." More specifically, Milbrodt wanted playable musical instruments created from his own car, and wanted them to represent the four instrument families of the traditional orchestra: winds, brass, percussion, and strings. To accomplish his goal, he hired professional auto mechanics to disassemble his car, and commissioned metal sculptor Ray Faunce III to create a series of playable musical instruments from the car's parts. Faunce worked with a team that included musicians, an engineer, a physicist, a glass cutter, and others to create a series of instruments, some of which are "purebred" (only car parts) and some of which are "hybrids" (car parts plus traditional musical instrument parts). The resulting instruments have names like Convertibles and Tube Flutes (winds), Strutbone and Exhaustaphone (brass), Percarsion (percussion, of course), and Tank Bass and Air Guitar (strings). Milbrodt and his team have fully documented the general capabilities and tuning idiosyncrasies of all the instruments.

Here is Bill Milbrodt's Myspace page with several compositions available for listening there.

Here is a video of the band performing at Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in 2005.

Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia

The Sea organ 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. It is actually a water organ. The waves create somewhat random but harmonic sounds. The device was made by the architect Nikola Basic as part of the project to redesign the old city coast (riva), and the site was opened to the public on April 15, 2005.

Here are a couple of videos with the sound of Adriatic sea playing.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ondes Martenot

The ondes Martenot (French for "Martenot waves"; also known as the ondium Martenot, Martenot and ondes musicales) is an early electronic musical instrument with a keyboard and slide, invented in 1928 by Maurice Martenot - a French cellist, a radio telegrapher during the first World War, and an inventor. The instrument is originally very similar in sound to the Theremin. They both used the vacuum tube oscillator as a sound source and were both monophonic, where the Theremin had a sliding scale and no fixed preset notes the Ondes-Martenot had a keyboard and a strip control for glissando and vibrato and an appearance that was familiar to any keyboard player.

The instrument also had a bank of expression keys that allowed the player to change the timbre and character of the sounds. A later (1938) version of the instrument featured microtonal tuning as specified by the Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore and the musician Alain Danielou.

The Ondes-Martenot was quickly accepted and eventually had a wide repetoire, works were written for the instrument by composers such as Edgard Varèse, Olivier Messian, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Maurice Jarre.

Here you can see how it works.

Here is a great video of Claus Simon performing Olivier Messiaen works on Ondes Martenot.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thumb piano!

In Zimbabwean music, the mbira is a musical instrument consisting of a wooden board to which staggered metal keys have been attached. It is often fitted into a deze that functions as a resonator. Mbira performances are usually accompanied by hosho. The Mbira is usually classified as part of the lamellophone family of musical instruments.

Robert Patterson Collier Flickr set shows a great deal of Thumb Pianos, or Kalimbas, or Mbiras.

Carol of the Bells (array mbira)

African Harp and Thumb Piano Ensemble

Paco Sere plays mbira

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Visual Accoustic - java music machine.

VisualAccoustic - a wonderful Java Applet, which allows you to play several instruments including Piano, Strings, Flute, Bass, Harp, etc. by moving your mouse on the canvas. You control delay, volume and pitch, and the program does the harmony ;) Combinations of low volume bass and flute or sax sound pretty nice.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Laser Harp

A laser harp is an electronic musical instrument consisting of several laser beams to be blocked, in analogy with the plucking of the strings of a harp, in order to produce sounds. It is famously used by Jean Michel Jarre in his concerts.

The term "laser harp" and the first working laser harp were invented and made by Geoffrey Rose in 1976.The first model was constructed with a matrix of 5 X 5 laser beams in an octagonal frame. It has subsequently been used in a number of different designs, including a MIDI version invented by Philippe Guerre, and a recent one created by Yan Terrien. They have also been used in public art installations such as those created by Jen Lewin on display at Lincoln Center in 2000 and Burning Man 2005.

A laser harp is generally built using a single laser, splitting its beam into an array of beams in parallel or fan arrangement. When a beam is blocked, this is detected by a photodiode or photoresistor, which is connected to electronics activating the relevant note. Playing the actual sound is usually handled by connecting the laser harp to a synthesizer, sampler or computer.

Here is a video of Jean Michel Jarre performing his Rendez Vous 2 on a laser harp. And if you want to build one yourself - here is a guide. And watch your eyes ;)

Monday, September 10, 2007


The balalaika is a stringed instrument of Russian origin, with a characteristic triangular body and 3 strings (or sometimes 6, in pairs).

Here is a video of a russian folk song played on two balalaikas - a bass and a prima.

And here you can see, that balalikas are not only about folk songs.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Resonant Chamber

This is just an amasing video by Animusic project. "Resonant Chamber" features a ton of steampunk strings combined in an amazing music machine.

Contrabass saxophone

The contrabass saxophone is one of the lowest-pitched members of the saxophone family. It is extremely large (twice the length of tubing of the baritone saxophone, with a bore twice as wide, standing 6 feet four inches tall, or 1.9 meters) and heavy (approximately 45 pounds, or 20.4 kilograms), and is pitched in the key of EE♭, one octave below the baritone.

Especially in its lowest register, the instrument produces a massive and somewhat harsh, foghorn-like tone. Because of its extremely low register (like the contrabassoon), it can be difficult for listeners to perceive individual pitches; instead of hearing a clearly defined melody, listeners may instead hear a series of "buzzy" tones with little pitch definition.

Here is a page with some mp3's of the thing.

Tubax contrabass saxophone

Bazantar - Five String Double Bass

The bazantar is a custom made string instrument invented by musician Mark Deutsch, who worked on the design between 1993 and 1997 (US patent 5883318 issued March 16, 1999).

The bazantar is a five string double bass with 29 sympathetic and 4 drone strings and has a melodic range of five octaves. It is designed as a separate housing for sympathetic strings (to deal with the increased string tension) mountable on a double bass or cello, modified to hold drone strings.

Here is a 10 min video by Mark Deutsch himself.