Last Tuesday night, as the contestants who made it to Vegas searched their names on either the “favorites” or the “stand-by” list, I couldn’t believe it when William Close wasn’t on the list. If you need a refresher on his act, watch this video:
However, as we all soon found out, the Close and his Earth Harp had impressed the judges so much, he was automatically advanced to New York. I enjoyed this act right off and was looking forward to seeing him in the advanced stages of this season. This wind harp is like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and I’d love to see something this different win the competition.
The “Earth Harp” was invented by Close himself back in 1999. Its strings go up to 1,000 feet in length, which makes it the world’s longest stringed instrument. Since its first debut where it was “mounted on one side of a valley with the strings stretehced nearly 1,000 feet to other side,” hundreds of Earth Harp have been installed across the world by Close and MASS Ensemble, including at the Grand Theater of Shanghai and Seattle’s Space Needle. According to a website about the Earth Harp, an Earth Harp installation is:
. . . Celebrates the architecture and landscape of its surroundings. The environment and architecture are transformed by the strings, forever changing the perception of those lucky enough to see the installation.
The Earth Harp and MASS have performed at numerous festivals and performing arts center, such as The Coliseum in Rome for La Notte Bianca, Miami Sleepless Nights, the Kennedy Center, and a permanent installation at Cirque du Soleil’s show in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand.
It’s pretty incredible how the Earth Harp works. The website explains the process as follows:
The Earth Harp is played using violin resin on cotton gloves and musical bows. The performer’s hands are run along the strings to create beautiful cello like tones. The act of rubbing the strings creates a longitudinal compression wave. This vibration is similar to the vibration patterns that produce tones when you run your finger around the edge of a wine glass.
So now that you have a little bit of background on the Earth Harp, how about something about the man behind the masterpiece?
He attended the Art Institute of Chicago where he studied sculpture and sound design. He has worked to closely explore connections between music and architecture. According to his Facebook page, the quote “architecture is frozen in music” inspires his work. In addition to the Earth Harp, he worked with architects to develop two “Symphonic houses”, where essentially, the houses are musical instruments. He has also created more than 100 new musical instruments throughout his career.
I mentioned the “MASS Ensemble” earlier on, which is an acronym for “music architecture sound and sculpture”, which was founded by Close. Many of the performances with the Earth Harp include the MASS ensemble who “work with Closes unique designs to create music based stage shows that push the envelope of the musical experience.”
Here are a few of Close’s performances, the first at Jerusalem’s Festival of Lights, and the second at the Lucidity Festival 2012 in Santa Barbara:
To learn more about William, his work, and the Earth Harp, visit his website here. I look forward to seeing how America takes to this very unique act.