William Close likes his instruments big

PATRICK BEGLEY
Last updated 15:34 23/07/2014
WILLIAM CLOSE/Vimeo

Earth harp creator William Close has landed a record deal with his 300-metre string instrument.

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String player William Close is one musician who likes to think big. Very big.

Close plays his own invention, the earth harp, which uses cables up to 300 metres long to turn concert halls and valleys into enormous chambers within the instrument itself. 

Dubbed the largest stringed instrument in the world, the earth harp's wires extend over the audience from a mount on stage to whatever fixture is available: a theatre balcony, a cliff face, even the walls of the Roman Colosseum. 

Close, who placed third on America's Got Talent in 2012, has just signed a two-album deal with independent record label Nettwerk Music.

It's the culmination of 15 years playing an instrument that took extended experimentation to create.

"First I played around with a 10-foot-long string (3m), then a 20-foot (6m) and then a 30-foot (9m) and kept on going until I actually proposed the idea of creating this giant earth harp to an art and science organisation," he told The New York Times.

"I mounted a series of these resonators to one side of a valley and I ran strings 1000 feet (300m) across to the other side. So it turned that valley into a giant harp."

The composition of the wires remains a "secret recipe" but Close is happy to discuss the mechanics of his creation. 

"For instance in order to receive a middle C on the earth harp, I need a string that's exactly 40 feet (12m) long" he told the Times. "So the way I do that if I have a string that's, say, 100 feet (30m) long, is I'll take a tuning block and mount it to the string 40 feet (12m) out from the bridge and that stops the vibration at that point. "

Close and his team play the instrument wearing gloves covered in rosin, the sticky substance string players apply to their bows.

They run their hands up and down the 16 to 22 strings that make up the instrument on a given performance.

But after creating 100 new instruments, including an aquatar and a drum cloud, Close now wants to design a harp with 1000 strings. 

"I think it would be spectacular," he said. "I really hope I get the chance to do it."

He is fond of the Goethe quote: "Architecture is frozen music". 

Close's first album with Nettwerk, Behind the Veil, is set for US release on July 29. 

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