Sky Harp

One of my early musical influences, and one that ignited my interest in building unusual musical instruments was Francesco Lupico’s Cosmic Beam Experience. The Cosmic Beam was the first long-string instrument I had ever seen, and the sound it made blew my mind. The fact that he built it from the channel beam of a flat-bed semi truck trailer also appealed to me.

Ever since then, I’ve wanted to build a long-string instrument, but the logistics of such a thing proved challenging. Where would I put it? I don’t have room for anything ten feet long, anywhere indoors, regardless of its other dimensions.

A couple of weeks ago, I stood a fir pole on end, and tied it to the corner of my woodshed. I had used the top and bottom of the pole to make a small keyboard stand for my circuit-bent toy keyboards,

…but I had this piece of fir sapling, about 15 ft long, left over, so I stood it up on end, and tied it to the corner of my woodshed, like a flagpole. I stood there looking at it for a while, wondering what I could do with it, when an idea flashed in my mind, and I saw this fir pole in a whole new light: as the backbone of a vertical (at least for storage), outdoor, long-string instrument. Then it occurred to me that a vertical, outdoor, long-string instrument, just might function as a wind-harp too.

I love wind harps. You don’t see them very often. When you do, it is usually in the window sill of the home of someone with money and taste, an extremely rare combination these days. I’ve been meaning to build one of those too.

Suddenly, I had a vision of a vertical, outdoor, electro-acoustic, long-string wind harp with radio antenna aesthetics. Once I had that vision, even swarms of hungry mosquitoes couldn’t prevent me from building it.

Now that it exists, I get to hear exactly what it sounds like, and to find its voice. I played it a bit in the vertical position, and I got it to make some cool sounds, but I couldn’t reach very far up the strings, which I found limiting. However, when I let the wind play it, it sang! Beautifully! I may just let the wind play it from now on.

Author: john hardin

Artist bio: The writer in me says: “Don’t tell them who you are, show them what you do.” The artist in me says: “It must be strong, simple, bold, yet rich with detail, but above all, original.” The filmmaker in me says: “We need to contextualize your work by weaving the roots of the Psychedelic Revolution, the Environmental Movement, Gaia Theory, Future Primitivism and musical influences from Iannis Xenakis to Bart Hopkin into a narrative that portrays an iconoclast's struggle for cultural relevance from the forested hinterlands of rural Northern California within the greater post-industrial, post-post-modern, post-reality mind-fuck of the 21st Century.” The critic in me says: “Will that guy ever shut up?” The comedian in me says: “It has to make me laugh at least once.” The engineer in me says: “Don’t forget to tell them that you do it all off-grid, with solar power, using recycled materials.” And the improvisational musician in me says: “Cut! Great job everybody!”

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