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Sharp Music at New York’s Annual Musical Saw Festival

Who would have thought that an ordinary carpenter’s handsaw could be used to produce music? But apparently it can, and has been for the past 300 hundred years. And in order to commemorate this bizarre yet unique tradition, the NYC Musical Saw Festival is held in July of every year, in Astoria (Queens), New York City. Ever since the festival was established by founder and director Natalia ‘Saw Lady’ Paruz in 2003, musical saw players from all over New York and the world have come together to preserve and honor this rare form of music. In fact, for saw players in far-flung countries like Germany, Sweden, India, China and Japan, Astoria has become a pilgrimage place of sorts. Every year, the sawist who travels the greatest distance in order to attend is awarded the title of ‘guest of honor’.

At the Musical Saw Festival, the players socialize and hear each other play. There are solo performances and jam sessions as well. They even take the opportunity to educate each other about the different types of saws and various techniques of playing. Overall, the atmosphere is said to be rather friendly and encouraging. But the festival is not limited to saw players. The event is open to the public, so people are welcome to come in and learn about the musical saw, or just enjoy a concert or two. An art exhibit and a workshop are also part of the festival.

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Violin Player Is Awarded the Title of World’s Fastest Human

He might not have the superhuman running speed of The Flash, but violonist Ben Lee can play Flight of the Bumblebee note perfect on the electric violin in just 58.03 seconds, which makes him the fastest human alive.

Usain Bolt’s not going to like this, but a panel of judges and researchers working on the Discover Channel show Superhuman Showdown have unanimously declared 32-year-old violin player Ben Lee the fastest human on Earth. Ben and several other competitors were tested in a controlled environment and researchers used magnetic electrical pulses to measure their brain activity during their tasks. “It’s taken tens of thousands of hours of practice to reach this speed but it definitely helped that my parents were musical and encouraged me to play,” said Lee, who has been playing the violin since he was five. Now, he hits about 15 notes per second and says he can only get faster. The four-time world violin-speed record holder was the best of a handful of contestants specially selected from hundreds of fast performing humans around the world.Among Lee’s competitors were world base race champion Frode Johannessen, who can ‘fly’ unassisted at 170pm, and Jerry Miculek, a speed shooter who can fire eight rounds on four targets in 1.06 seconds.

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Yohio, the Japanese Doll-Like Rock Star Who Is Actually a Swedish Boy

Ok, so we’ve had plenty of doll-like Internet celebrities featured on Oddity Central, but Yohio, a Japanese visual kei singer is pushing the envelope even further, as he’s actually a 16-year-old Swedish bot who looks like an anime girl.

The androgynous look isn’t exactly something new in music. Singers like David Bowie, Boy George and even Marylin Manson have used their feminine features to their advantage for years, but they never took it as far as Yohio, a Swedish teen who has taken Japan by storm with his anime girl looks, guitar skills and knowledge of the Japanese language. The 16-year-old became an online sensation outside the Land of the Rising Sun when a video of a a pale blonde-hair girl with big black eyes and pigtails singing in Japanese made the rounds of popular Internet media outlets. People were left stunned when they realized the beautiful performer was actually a 16-year-old dude, from Sweden.

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Talented Composer Makes Beautiful Music with Instruments Provided by Mother Nature

Meet Diego Stocco, the guy who can make music from anything, even raw nature. In celebration of Earth Day, he staged an innovative musical experiment in which he used all kinds of unusual but completely natural instruments.

Who knew tree bark or orange peel could sound so groovy, if orchestrated by the right person? In his new performance, “Music from Nature”, Diego Stocco uses professional microphones and a customized stethoscope to best capture the sounds of nature as made by several uncommon musical instruments, including trees, leaves, almonds and bees. The result is too cool to describe, you just have to listen for yourself.

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The Orchestra of Recycled Instruments

This group not only plays music, but builds the instruments from scrap. That’s right, they make their ‘recycled’ instruments out of things like kitchen spatulas and cookie cutters. Their music, nonetheless, is wonderful to listen to.

The Orchestra of Recycled Instruments is from Paraguay, a majority of them so poor that they had to resort to creating their own instruments. However, their love for music was never hindered by their economic condition. The members of the orchestra are students at the “Sonidos De La Tierra,” which is an organization dedicated to running music workshops and schools in the lesser privileged areas of Paraguay. This is where these talented musicians learned the skill of recycled-instrument-music making. Some of them were so passionate about the art that they even quit their jobs as recyclers at a major dump site, in order to pursue their music full time.

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Students Take Up Boxing to Become Better Musicians

 The students of the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, N.Y., learn more than just music. In groups, they are asked to attend classes of a highly different nature. Classes that test and train them physically, and teach them the basic skills of boxing.

While it’s perfectly understandable that a musician may enjoy a little physical exercise, fitness is not a priority for these students. They have taken up boxing to improve their music skills. It all started when their professor, James VanDenmark, took up the sport himself. The world renowned double bass soloist says the classes had a remarkable difference upon his skills on the instrument. He reports better bow control, more confidence, stamina and energy. Intrigued, VanDenmark began to send a few of his female students to learn boxing, along with some conditioning and strength building. When they displayed the same results, he made this a regular feature with all his students. He now sends them in groups to Rochester gym ROC Boxing & Fitness to learn boxing basics and practice strength training. The students, he says, are now able to produce a bigger and more focused sound from the big instrument.

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Turkish Doctors Use Islamic Music as Medicine

A group of doctors at the Memorial Hospital in Instanbul, Turkey, have started using traditional Islamic music as complementary treatment for various illnesses.

Using music as therapy might sound strange in an age where medicine is relying more and more on science and technology, but the benefits of musical treatments have been known for almost 1,000 years. The makam, a musical mode unique to traditional Arabic and Turkish music, was used in Islamic medicine as early as the 9th century, when philosopher al-Farabi cataloged the effects of different musical modes on the human body and mind. Makam defines the pitches, patterns and development of a certain musical piece and the different tone scales must be largely played by ear.

Doctors at Istanbul’s Memorial Hospital are convinced different makams have positive  psychological and physiological effects on their patients. Dr. Eroll Can discovered musical therapy while working at a hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria, where they used a tape recorder and headphones, but after he immigrated to Turkey in 1996, he started using live instruments and noticed the effects were even more significant. Now he, along with professor Bingur Sonmez and Mehmet Susam are masters of traditional instruments like the ney (Turkish flute), yayli tan bur (Ottoman violin) and the guitar.

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Tennessee Musician Creates 27-String Guitar

Keith Medley has been a master guitar builder for most of his adult life, and while he has created custom instruments for many famous musicians, his most impressive guitar is the one he made for himself.

If you’re missing a guitarist or two for your band, stop worrying, because the 27-string guitar Keith Medley invented has the power to make them obsolete. The only trick is learning how to play it. That’s in fact the biggest problem, White House-based Medley had to overcome, as well. “Building this guitar turned out to be the easy part,” Keith explains on his site. “The hard part has been learning to play it. Through two years of bittersweet struggle between myself and these 27 strings, I determined it would not defeat me but would play the music I heard in my heart.”

But why would anyone need a 27-string guitar, when most guitarist seem to do very well with just 12, or even 6? Keith says the music he hears in his head is more than can be played on six strings, so after many sketches and nights of contemplation, he came up with this unique 27-string instrument. He claims it’s like playing three instruments at the same time, but that apparently isn’t good enough since he’s now working on a guitar with 34 strings.

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Russian Band Plays Live Gigs Using iPhones and iPads as Instruments

Cooperative Style, a teenage rock band from Kazan, Russia, is the world’s first group to play a series of live concerts using only Apple iPads and iPhones as musical instruments.

Instead of using traditional instruments, the teenagers download apps for drums, keyboards and guitars and play their Apple gadgets on stage, through a downloaded mixing desk. They play covers and hits by rock legends like Nirvana, and say their audiences really like their original performances. Ruslan Halikov, the iPhone guitarist of Cooperative Style says it’s a lot harder to play a virtual guitar that it is a real one, not to mention rock and roll poses don’t look cool at all. Still, the public seems to like what they do.

While these guys may be the first to play Apple’s cash cows in live gigs, the iPhone and iPad have long been used to make music by amateur groups, and some of their performances are really very good. You can find loads of videos on YouTube.

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Designer Creates World’s First Rocking Piano

Chichi the rocking piano was designed by Sarah Davenport as a way of strengthening the relationship between the pianist and piano, and is unique in the world. Apparently, the rocking motion creates a perfect harmony that allows the piano player to completely get lost in the music, ignoring the world around. At least that’s how Sarah says it makes her feel, and she’s been playing piano since she was just three years old, so I guess we can take her word for it. At some events, pianists have been known to get so immersed in the music and the rocking that they kept playing for hours on end.

Chichi has been around for three years now, and after being featured in prestigious venues like the London Design Festival and The Nottingham Contemporay Art Gallery, Sarah decided it’s time to find it a proper home. She auctioned it off, at the end of January, and I’m sure it sold for a pretty hefty sum.

Ms. Davenport has already been approached by some of the biggest names in the music industry, to create more rocking pianos, each of which will be custom made, but she says there will never be another Chichi.

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Terje Isungset’s Ice Instruments Make Cool Music

Terje Isungset, one of the world’s most talented percussionists, creates ice music with instruments he carves out of pure glacier ice.

Born in the Norwegian village of Geilo, Isungset grew up surrounded by a family of musicians, and grew up to be one of the most innovative percussionists of our time, Over the years, he has created musical instruments out of natural materials like arctic birch, granite, slate, but the thing he is most passionate about is making ice music, a style that he pioneered through the creation of ice instruments.

Isungset first fell in love with ice music in the year 2000, when the commission for the Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games asked him to compose and play in a frozen waterfall. He was already renown for creating musical instruments out of other primitive materials, but he had never worked with ice. He took it as a challenge and managed to compose a greatly appreciated minimalist composition with just whatever the river provided – ice, water, stone and some wood.

Terje Isungset describes the process of making ice music and ice instruments as hard work and a continuing learning process. Most of his tools are made of pure glacier ice, so clear you can see through meters of it. He just cuts the ice cubes with a knife and carves them into instruments. Most of his creations are percussion tools, but he has been known to make an ice guitar, an ice harp, a trumpet and even a fiddle.

While Terje Isungset’s ice music can’t exactly be referred to as radically new (considering man actually started making using with whatever materials nature provided him with), it’s definitely a breath of fresh air, in this modern age.

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Guitar Tornado Is Played by Robotic Fingers

Named “IF VI was IX: Roots and branches”, the guitar tornado is an impressive artistic and musical installation, created by German artist Trimpin.

While different types of guitars placed together in what looks like a still tornado is something worth checking out, there’s more to this musical tribute than meets the eye.  Yes, while it might seem impossible looking at it, the guitar tornado actually plays music. Among all the common guitars, there are some robotic ones that actually pluck the guitar strings, thus playing the tune visitors choose via a remote touchscreen.

The only downside of the guitar tornado’s robotic arms  is that they can only play one string at a time. So how does it replicate a whole song? By plucking a single string of multiple guitars in the installation. The amazing guitar tornado is an interactive tribute to the history of American music, and features various genres, from early acoustic folk music, to rock and punk.

Music lovers can check out the guitar tornado at the “Experience Music Project” , in Seattle.

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Star Wars Fan Builds Working Millennium Falcon Guitar

Using an electric guitar and a vintage Millennium Falcon toy, Travis S. managed to build a unique instrument shaped like Han Solo’s starship.

Having built guitars with his father, in high-school, this was a relatively easy task for Travis S., but the idea of building something that has never been done before appealed to him. An avid Star Wars fan, with a sizable collection of memorabilia, he decided to combine his love for the sci-fi franchise with his passion for guitars. It only took him a month, working on weekends, to complete the guitar, but he says he could have completed in under a week.

Since this is an electric guitar, using a plastic toy as the body doesn’t affect the way it sounds, but the artist had to add a maple block from the start to the end of the ship, to keep it from breaking under the tension of the strings.  The back of the Millennium Falcon guitar has been fitted with blue LED lights, powered by their own batteries.

Despite its futuristic look, the guitar was designed to play, and I can only imagine the reaction of the public when someone brings this baby on stage. If you think this is cool, just wait until you here what Travis S has planned next : a Lord of the Rings themed bass guitar. I can’t wait!

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Playable Guitar Made with Popsicle Sticks

Actually making a playable guitar is hard enough, but making it using just popsicle sticks, some glues and basic house tools seems nearly impossible. Still, someone managed to do it.

Instructables user busupholstery managed to leave everyone speechless when he uploaded photos of the guitar he made, using posicle sticks. He bought 4,000 of them, worth $900, and ended up using 2,000 to create his DIY masterpiece. Using his own Gremlin parlor size guitar as a pattern, he spent 240 hours gluing and cutting popsicle sticks, until his unusual guitar was completed.

The most amazing thing about this man’s achievement is that he managed to build a popsicle stick guitar, somewhere in Costa Rica, basically using just a handsaw, some clothespins, rubber bands and glue. Let’s face it, most of us wouldn’t be able to make something like this with the latest power tools available.

And though it may not sound as good as the best guitars on the market, the popsicle stick guitar is playable. Before you even ask, it’s not for sale.

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The World’s Largest Violin Is Almost Complete

Twelve luthiers, from Markneukirchen, eastern Germany, are working around the clock, adding the final details to what could be the world’s largest violin.

Markneukirchen is already famous for the quality violins made there, but this extraordinary instrument will definitely get its name into the record books. The world’s largest violin will be 4.28 meters tall, 1.45 meters wide, and weigh over 100 kilograms. It’s an exceptional achievement, but there’s just one problem: who’s going to play this thing? Even Sultan Kosen, the world’s tallest man, will have a tough time handling this giant instrument, especially since he’s not a very talented violin player.

Photos by AFP via Xinhua

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