Bizarre Instruments

Innovative minds are making new and crazy instruments every day. This Halloween, we pulled together some of the weirdest and creepiest instruments we could find for you to hear!

  1. Armonica

Invented by Ben Franklin in 1761.

Glass bowls rotate on a wheel and are struck by the player’s dampened fingers.

Though popular during Franklin’s lifetime, the Armonica did not maintain it’s popularity, possibly because some claimed the sound made listeners go mad! The instrument was even banned in a few German towns after a child reportedly died at a concert.

The paranoia led to some taking protective measures against the eerie sounds of the instrument, as a musicologist from the time advised:

“[The harmonica] excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood, that is an apt method for slow self-annihilation. …

If you are suffering from any nervous disorder you should not play it.
If you are not yet ill you should not play it excessively.
If you are feeling melancholy you should not play it or else play uplifting pieces”

“The Last Transit of Venus,” Written and performed by William Zeitler

Theremin

Invented by soviet Leon Theremin, patented in 1928.

It is an electronic instrument in which the player doesn’t touch the instrument, but makes pitch by moving their hands in proximity to the antennas, producing sound. One antenna controls pitch and another the volume.

It is believed to be the first electronic instrument.

By it’s nature, it has an eerie, artificial tone that can be interpreted as creepy, spooky, or out of this world, making it a popular choice for soundtracks to thrillers and science fiction films.

“Ghost Sonata,” Written and performed by Scott Marshall

Chrysalis

Built in 1976 by Chris Forster

Similar to a harp, the Chrysalis is played by striking strings strewn across a board. But unlike the harp, the strings are fastened to a free-rotating wheel.

It uses Just Intonation, a tuning system where pitches are tuned by distance based on ratio. Alternatively, western percussion such as the harp, piano, and mallet percussion are tempered, meaning they are tuned with equal distance between pitches.

Chris Forster said of his inspiration for the instrument:

[The Chrysalis], my first concert-sized instrument, was inspired by a huge, round, stone-hewn Aztec calendar. I asked myself, “What if there were a musica instrument in the shape of a wheel? And what if this wheel had strings for spokes, could spin, and when played, would sound like the wind?”

“What is the Grass?”
Poem by Walt Whitman, music written and performed by Cris Forster

Zeusaphone

Also known as The Singing Telsa Coil.

Invented in the late 1990s.

The name “Zeusaphone” was coined in 2007 and pays homage to Zeus, the Greek god of lightening.

It is a Tesla coil that has been manipulated into creating pitch along with its electric arcs.

You do not play it, but let it be played. The Zeusaphone uses a MIDI input in which you can plug in keyboards and synthesizers. You can also play prerecorded pieces from a MIDI cable or USB adapter.

Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” on the Zeusaphone Z-85
Published by Zeusaphone.com

Want to know more about these instruments? Check out our sources below!
Armonica
https://www.fi.edu/history-resources/franklins-glass-armonica
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_harmonica
http://glassarmonica.com/index.php
Theremin
http://www.thereminworld.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theremin
Chrysalis
http://www.chrysalis-foundation.org/index.htm
Zeusaphone
http://zeusaphone.com