Music is all around us if you look hard enough. From giant 3D-printed dronepipes to the theremin, to clarinets made of carrots. Check out the some of the world’s weirdest musical instruments.
Have you ever been in a cave and seen those teeth-shaped cones of stone hanging above? They’re called stalactites, a cool geological formation created by dripping water. Electronic engineer Leland W. Sprinkle (great name!) turned stalactites into music by creating the world’s first and only Great Stalacpipe Organ.
Sprinkle (still a great name) worked at the pentagon by day, but by night, armed with a small hammer and tuning fork, he searched the Luray Caves of Virginia for the perfect stalactites. The organ itself works by tapping these ancient stalactites with rubber mallets, all connected to a keyboard that looks like a traditional organ/piano. Legend has it that Sprinkle got the idea from hearing the sound a stalactite made after his son bumped his head accidentally.
These have to be literally the coolest instruments on earth. Norwegian drummer and composer, Terje Isungset, turns ice into music. He shapes ice into a variety of instruments using his chainsaw like a paintbrush. Trumpets, xylophones, you name it - he’s carved it out of ice. People say that Isungset’s instruments have a very primitive, earthy sound. Cool!
England’s East Lancashire is home to an art installation known as the Singing Ringing Tree. It’s a giant instrument made up of a bunch of steel pipes of different lengths stacked in different directions, so that any passing breeze transforms into eerie melodies. This crazy piece of art stands just over three meters tall and was created in 2006 by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu and won a Royal Institute of British Architects award. It’s part of a series of artsy landmarks chosen by a public and panel vote.
The Vegetable Orchestra of Vienna are a group of touring musicians who have transformed everyday vegetables into a variety of instruments: pan-pipes, recorders, even a clarinet made from a carrot. Not only can the orchestra carry a vegan melody, they even give out fresh vegetable soup at the end of their concerts. Now while there’s nothing stopping you from making your own salad symphonies, the sound of the music produced by do-it-yourself veggie instruments has been known to be quite bitter.
The Hornucopian Dronepipe is a funny name for an even funnier looking instrument. The musical instrument, designed by Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg from Monad Studios, was created using a 3-D printer as part of a trio of futuristic instruments. The other two include a two-string electric violin, a one-string electric bass guitar, a one-string electric cello/violin hybrid and a small didgeridoo.
Theremins were made famous for producing the iconic eerie soundtracks to the science fiction films of the 1950s and ‘60s. What’s even more amazing is their trademark howl is made from contactless play. The player (called a “theremist”) moves their hand between two metal antennae without touching them. The distance from one antenna determines frequency (called “pitch”), and the distance from the other controls the volume (called “amplitude”). Theremists can play higher notes by moving their hands closer to the pitch antenna, and control volume by playing with the other antenna. The Theremin gets its name from Leon Theremin, who invented it in 1928.