El Rodafonio – The Craziest Musical Contraption Ever Created

The street theatre scene in Barcelona was completely transformed in 2010, with the invention of the Rodafonio – perhaps the weirdest musical contraption in the world. Created by renowned designer and musician César Alvarez Bayer, it consists of a gigantic wheel that’s four meters high and only 15 cm wide, like a huge waffle iron.

The wheel can accommodate a crew of five – the members of the Catalan music band ‘Factoria Circular’. Three musicians sit inside the wheel in their respective metal circles, playing their musical instruments – a guitar, a saxophone, and a set of drums – to various tunes, while occasionally spinning inside the giant wheel. The other two members are actors who pedal the wheel into motion, bringing the huge mechanical device to life.

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Aptly Named Aztec Death Whistle Makes the Creepiest Sound You’ve Ever Heard

The Aztec death whistle produces a sound so horrifying, it will chill you to the bone. Described as the ‘scream of a thousand corpses’, the death whistle sounds like the cry of the un-dead, or the torment of a human being burned alive.

Interestingly, the skull-shaped whistles were discovered 20 years ago by archaeologists, but were dismissed as mere toys. Most studies focused on how they looked, but no one really thought to blow into them. Now that the fearsome sound of the whistle has been discovered, it is attracting the attention of scientists, musicians and historians alike.

According to 66-year-old mechanical engineer Roberto Velazquez, who has spent several years recreating the sounds of his pre-Columbian ancestors, the Aztecs played the mournful ‘Whistles of Death’ just before they were sacrificed to the gods. Some historians believe that the Aztecs used to sound the death whistle in order to help the deceased journey into the underworld. Tribes are said to have used the terrifying sounds as psychological warfare, to frighten enemies at the start of battle.

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Hatebeak – A Death Metal Band Whose Lead Vocalist Was a Parrot

I suppose nothing complements the loudness of heavy metal better than ear-bleeding screeches. And when those sounds come from a bird instead of a human, it’s bound to make an impression. Meet Waldo, a Congo African Grey Parrot, a heavy metal prodigy and the lead vocalist of a Baltimore-based band, ‘Hatebeak’.

The band was formed in 2004, by audio engineers Blake Harrison and Mark Sloan, who played the guitar and drums respectively. Hatebeak was a strictly studio project with unintelligible lyrics and no real melody. They never toured so as to not torture the bird. “We don’t play live,” Blake once explained. “It would be absolute torture for the bird to experience decibels at those levels. Waldo is the only vocalist for Hatebeak. He does parrot noises and also says some words.”

In the years they were active, Blake and Mark never revealed their last names on their releases in order to maintain the mystery surrounding Hatebeak. They were signed by Reptilian Records (which is now on hiatus), and most of their discography had an avian theme with titles like ‘Number of the Beak’, ‘Beak of Putrefaction’, and ‘The Thing That Should Not Beak’.

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Concussion Turns Ordinary Man into Musical Genius, Overnight

If getting hit on the head means that I’d get to be a kickass musician for the rest of my life, I think I would seriously consider it. It sounds impossible, but something of the sort happened to 41-year-old Derek Amato. He really didn’t have a choice about it, though.

Derek had no idea his life was about to change forever when he dove into the shallow end of a pool to catch a football at a party. He hit his head and had a concussion, resulting in Acquired Savant Syndrome – a rare condition where people display profound abilities (called savant skills) after suffering head trauma, abilities that they didn’t have at birth. In Derek’s case, the acquired ability is music.

Derek is one of only 30 people in the world with this rare condition and the only one to have acquired music as a savant skill. Before the fall, he just dabbled in guitar and had no idea how to read or write music. And now he can play eight different instruments with the ease of a professional musician. Watching him play on video, it’s pretty hard to believe this man has had no formal training in music at all.

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Japanese 88-Member Pop Group Selects Lead Singers in Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament

Japanese music group AKB48 currently holds the Guinness record for the world’s largest pop group, with an impressive 88 female members split into various teams. But fitting all the girls on a single stage is tricky, so every time they launch a new single, AKB48 members hold a knockout rock-paper-scissors tournament to select a limited number of singers.

AKB48 is the brainchild of producer Yasushi Akimoto, who wanted to create a girl band that, unlike other pop groups who are mostly seen on TV and hold concerts sporadically, could perform for its fans live, every day, at their own theater. The band debuted in 2005 with 20 members chosen from almost 8,000 girls. In April of 2006, another group of 18 girls were chosen to form Team B of AKB48, and there are currently four different teams making up the 88-strong all-female idol group, as well as various sister groups Japan and various Asian countries. The team concept of AKB48 was meant to take load off of its members, since daily concerts at the group’s theater in Akibahara, Tokyo, are performed by only one of the teams, and also allow the others to make appearances at different locations around the world. In the eight years since its inception, AKB48 has become a social phenomenon, with record sales of $226 million in Japan alone. The girls have become so popular that tickets for their daily performances are not even sold anymore, but distributed by lottery. Even their unique rock-paper-scissors tournament to select lead singers for each new single is a sold-out event held at the giant Nippon Budokan arena.

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Playing with Lightning – Chinese Band Uses 1-Million-Volts Tesla Coil in Its Electrifying Concerts

If you’re ever passing through China’s Fujian province, make sure to stop by Dacuo Village and catch a performance by local band Lightningfan. The group specializes in producing electric arcs from Tesla coils that are charged with 1 million volts of electricity, and are in sync with the music they play.

31-year-old Wang Zengxiang, founder and leader of the 10-strong band Lightningfan, is a huge fan of the Tesla coil invented by geek hero extraordinaire Nikola Tesla. “When I was young, my family opened an electrical appliance repair shop. I have loved to study semiconductors and electrical equipment since I was a child,” Wang told the local press. But it was in 2001, when he enrolled in the school of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University that he discovered his first Tesla coil. He was so fascinated by the electrical device that he spent nearly all of his free time studying it. In 2007, he managed to build his very own 1.2-meter coil above his house, quit his comfortable job with an electrical company and dedicated himself to combining his passion for music with electricity. Together with a few like-minded friends, Wang founded Lightningfan, which started entertaining fellow villagers with its electrifying performances.

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The Future of Music – Japan’s New Robot Rock Band

They are called Z Machinese and they are about to take the Japanese music world by storm. This unique rock band is made up entirely of futuristic automatons able to play guitar, drums and keyboards better than any human.

Z Machines is the brainchild of Yoichiro Kawaguchi, an IT professor at the University of Tokyo, and mechanical designer Naofumi Yonetsuka, who wanted to liven up the music scene by creating something futuristic and exciting. So they created Ashura, a six-armed drummer who can actually play 22 drums simultaneously and sounds like four people playing the drums at the same time, Mach, a metal-and-wire guitarist who uses 78 fingers and 12 picks allowing him to challenge even the most gifted human guitar players, and Cosmo, who is literally wired into his keyboard and shoots lasers from his eyes. Z Mazhines certainly sounds like a very impressive band, but can they really play a gig? They answered that question on Monday, when they teamed up with Japanese human duo Amoyamo, for an electrifying performance at one of Tokyo’s most popular night clubs.

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The Great Stalacpipe Organ Plays Real Rock Music

The Great Stalacpipe Organ is a unique musical instrument that produces tones of symphonic quality by tapping stalactites in Virginia’s Luray Caverns with electronically-operated rubber mallets.

Recognized as the world’s largest musical instrument, the Great Stalacpipe Organ was created by Leland W. Sprinkle, a mathematician and electronics scientist at the Pentagon. After visiting Luray Caverns with his son and experiencing the organ like sounds of ancient stalactites being tapped, Sprinkle felt inspired to build a one-of-a-kind contraption that could turn these natural tones into playable music. After doing extensive research, he came up with a complex plan for a stalactite tapping instrument, and spent three years just examining each of the caverns’s thousands of hanging limestone columns, looking for the ones that produced specific notes. Only two stalactites were found to be in tune naturally, so he needed to carefully shave thirty-five others to precisely match the musical scale. He then wired a rubber-tipped mallet to each of the selected stalactites and linked them to a four-keyboard console built by the Klann Organ Supply Company of Waynesboro, Virginia, to meet the peculiar needs of this subterranean installation. The music-playing stalactites are spread over 3.5 acres (14,000 m2) of the caverns, so Sprinkle used over five miles of wiring to connect them to the organ console.

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Mind-Reading Headphones Play Music Based on Your Mood

Finding the right song to suit your mood can be pretty frustrating, but thanks to the new Mico mind-reading headphones from Japanese company Neurowear, you won’t have to scroll through your playlist anymore. They’ll just scan your brain and play the perfect song.

The Mico mind-reading system is made up of two parts: a pair of bulky headphones and an iPhone app. The headphones come with a forehead sensor that analyzes the user’s brainwaves to detect his mood, then connects to the Mico database via the iPhone application and selects the song that best fits his current state, from a number of neuro-tagged tunes. If your mood changes, and you feel the song isn’t appropriate anymore, all you have to do is shake the phone to clear collected data and have the sensor scan your brain again. Neurowear’s revolutionary headphones also come with built-in LED indicators that display your mood through icons to everyone around you. Right now, they have an exclamation mark for when you’re focused, a “zzz” sign for when you’re feeling drowsy, and a cross icon for when you’re stressed.

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Sound of Silence CD Sold by Church Proves Big Hit

St Peter’s Church, in East Sussex, England, has found a novel way to found its repairs – selling CDs with the sound of silence recorded inside the 800-year-old house of worship.

Believe it or not, the 30-minute recording featuring only dull sounds like squeaking pews, soft footsteps and the hum of distant traffic proved a hit not only with local parishioners eager to contribute to the repair fund, but also peace and quiet lovers from countries like Germany, Austria and even Ghana. It seems that in this day and age, chill-out music like Buddha Bar just doesn’t cut it anymore. People have such busy and noisy lives they often feel the need for simple silence.  “There are a few noises here and there – if it was total silence people might get bored,” said one East Sussex churchgoer. “Those who have bought it have enjoyed it.”

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Robot Band Compressorhead Puts the “Metal” in Heavy Metal

Compressorhead is not your usual heavy-metal rock group. The band’s three members are all robots, but they’ve proven they can cover hits by rock legends like Motorhead or AC/DC honorably. They’re even scheduled to play alongside The Chili Peppers and The Killers, at the Big Day Out Festival, in Australia, this summer.

Assembling, cooking, waiting tables, even horse riding; robots have proven capable of doing all of these jobs, but until now, musicians seemed like they had nothing to fear. Well, not anymore – introducing Compressorhead, a rock band made up of three real metal heads: Fingers, Bones and Stickboy. They are robots that can be programmed to cover hits by pretty much any rock group that ever existed, but so far they seem to prefer heavyweights like Black Sabbath, Pantera or Led Zeppelin. They’re a bit lacking in the creative department, but I’m sure they’ll improve on that as they go along. The robot group hail from Germany and hope to conquer human kind with their music, instead of Terminator-like force. Let’s meet the boys:

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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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