Music has been around since the beginning of humanity to express emotions and stories. Music has expanded from it’s original rituals into every aspect of life; and more genres than people could count. Some of this music is produced by newer inventions capable of producing musical sounds. These instruments are strange in appearance, sound and execution.
The hornucopian dronepipe is an entirely 3D-printed instrument designed by MONAD Studio, Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg with musician/luthier Scott F. Hall. It’s just one of a set of rather dystopian-looking instruments which together form an art installation. The other instruments are: two-string piezoelectric violin, one-string electric travel bass guitar, one-string piezoelectric monovioloncello and a small didgeridoo.
How about that for some seriously low-end flute? This aptly named flautist foghorn is the largest member of the flute family, containing over 15 meters in piping. It’s a relatively new instrument and, according to early reports, the tone is still under refinement as it’s a bit growly. We don’t care. It’s massive and weird.
Constructed in 1850 by certifiable genius and fan of massive string instruments Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, the Octobass is a chuffing massive double bass that stands at 3.48m tall. Which is ridiculous, really, seeing as it’s too big to play with the hands – there are elaborate foot-pedals to make it possible. Apparently Berlioz was a fan, and wrote about it in his treatise on orchestration.
Otherwise known as the fire organ or the explosion organ (seriously), the Pyrophone Organ is powered by combustion. Which means that, to play it, a certain part of it needs to be on fire. Of course, it’s all perfectly safe – the organ itself can be powered by propane and gasoline, and the explosions that force exhaust down the pipes to make the sounds can be regulated. But still, it’s an explosion organ. Best stand back.
Henry Dagg has one of the coolest sounding job titles ever – Sound Sculptor. In his amazingly awesome role as Sound Sculptor, Dagg invented the equally cool-sounding instrument known as the Sharpsichord. It’s actually a gargantuan pin-barrel harp that contains 11 cylinders, and the pins strike internal strings as they rotate.
The Great Stalacpipe Organ
Invented by the superbly named Leland W. Sprinkle in 1956 and situated in an underground cave in Virginia, the Great Stalacpipe Organ works by tapping on ancient stalactites with rubber mallets, all connected to a console that looks like a traditional organ. One of the popular stories surrounding the invention of the organ says that Sprinkle got the idea when his son hit his head on one of the stalactites, producing a low, vibrating hum from the cave.
This barmy yet ambitious project sought to turn the sea itself into a musician by using the reconstructed seafront in Zadar, Croatia as a ginormous organ. Pipes underneath the promenade react to the waves as they crash in, creating harmonious sounds that tourists flock to come and experience.
Another self-explanatory title. This hybrid made the pages of Popular Science Monthly magazine back in 1936. The sound created by bowing the strings came out of the brass horn instead of via a traditional wooden body, reportedly producing a sound somewhere between strings and brass.
Cross-Grainger Kangaroo-Pouch Tone-Tool
When it comes to names, this instrument from Percy Grainger takes the biscuit. The Cross-Grainger Kangaroo-Pouch Tone-Tool is an insane idea anyway – using rolls of paper and a series of oscillators to produce a sound not too dissimilar to series of air-raid sirens going off.
Singing Ringing Tree
This incredible bit of engineering is part sculpture, part musical instrument. Overlooking Burnley in Lancashire, it was completed in 2006 and is made up of a series of pipes that sound when the wind blows through them. It has a range of several octaves and reportedly has a slightly discordant choral sound. You’d think they might’ve tuned it…
The brainchild of legendary tubist and general low-end enthusiast Jim Self (with the help of brass manufacturer Robb Stewart), the Fluba is exactly what you might imagine it is – a hybrid of a flugelhorn and a tuba. Which means it’s a tuba-sized flugelhorn. Self-explanatory, really.
The daddy of weird instruments, and one of the very first times electronics were used specifically to create music. Notable for its eerie sound, contact-less playing technique and its use in science fiction movies, Leon Theremin (great name) went down in musical history for this one. It was used memorably in Miklós Rózsa’s soundtrack for Spellbound and The Lost Weekend, and Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack for The Day the Earth Stood Still.