Weird and Wonderful Musical Instruments

At Stagefreight, music transport forms the backbone of our business. From getting instruments and stage props to grand operas or to intimate one-off shows, our clients have strummed, warbled and plinked through some wonderful shows.

But music transport is more than rock bands and grand orchestras. Join us on this magical mystery tour through the strangest corners of the musical world.

The Subcontrabass Flute

The flute is an instrument famous for its high pitch- in fact, it’s the highest pitched instrument in an orchestra’s woodwind section. This flute takes a rather different approach.

A subcontrabass flute produces a very low sound, three octaves below a concert flute. The instrument is over 4 metres long, and can be constructed from metal or PVC.

It’s possible to create a flute with an even lower sound called a hyperbass. At its lowest level, a hyperbass can produce infrasonic sound, which is beyond the range of human hearing.

The Instruments Carved from Ice

Most musicians use instruments built to last. This Norwegian musician takes a rather different approach.

Terje Isungset is a percussionist with 20 years of experience in jazz and Scandinavian music. He creates instruments from many unconventional materials like sheep bells, slate, arctic birch and- of course- ice.

By carving solid blocks, Terje can turn simple ice into trumpets and glockenspiels. The sound is both familiar and ethereal, and driven by the belief we are visitors to the earth, rather than owners of it.

Terje also curates the Ice Music Festival, which takes place each year in Geilo, Norway.

The Solar Powered Music Box

Music boxes are about 200 years old, use clockwork innards, and feature a design small enough to fit in one hand. Henry Dagg ignored almost all of these conventions when he constructed this bizarre instrument, commissioned by the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

The ‘sharpsichord’, or pin-barrel harp, takes the principles of a music box and scales them up a bit. Constructed from stainless steel, the instrument plays music by rotating a drum with pins attached to it. These pins ‘pluck’ each string of the instrument, producing music.

In the initial plans, the instrument would sit outside and use a solar-powered motor to drive the machinery. However the owners moved it from its original, open-air location for fear of theft. What’s more, the instrument can only play 90 seconds of audio before it begins to repeat itself.

Still, it’s a striking- if unwieldly- take on a classic of musical instruments.

The Musical Marble Machine

Some people, when given a marble run, are happy to pass marbles through the tubes and channels for a couple of hours. Other people, it seems, are a little more adventurous.

Created by one Martin Molin and played by Wintergatan, a Swedish ‘folktronica’ band, the Marble Machine is a Frankenstein’s monster of an instrument. It incorporates several different instruments (or parts of instruments) into its frame, which are then triggered by hundreds of falling metal balls. Musicians ‘program’ the song into the machine using rows and rows of Lego bricks. These work like the innards of a music box; changing the arrangement of bricks changes the song as well.

A new and improved version of the machine has been created for touring purposes, but you can visit the official Wintergatan website to see the original being assembled. It now lives at Museum Speelklok, a Dutch establishment dedicated to self-playing musical instruments.

The Stalacpipe Organ

Our last instrument is certainly the biggest….and the most unwieldy. The Stalacpipe Organ uses an entire cavern to produce music!

Built in 1954 by Leland Sprinkle, a mathematician and electronic scientist, the organ lives in the Luray Caverns of Virginia. When a musician presses a key on the organ, they send a signal to an electromagnet, which taps a rubber mallet against one of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling.

These stalactites cover a distance of 3.5 acres. That’s 14,164 square metres…or just over 2 and a half football fields!

However, to keep the organ in working order the operators must constantly battle damp and low temperatures. Parts of the organ are even coated in beeswax to prevent corrosion. The organ will also need retuning in a few hundred years, but thanks to its official government designation as a US Natural landmark, the organ will hopefully be around for a long time yet.

As you can see, there are some truly bizarre instruments in the world of music. But we at Stagefreight don’t see them as obstacles. We see them as exciting music transport challenges (well, perhaps not the Stalacpipe).

Whatever you’re looking to transport, Stagefreight is here to help. We’ve got plenty of experience transporting weird and wonderful items (over 25 years to be precise). And ensuring they arrive at their venue in perfect condition on time – every time – is what we do.

Once our drivers arrive, they’ll help to build stages and advise you on lighting choices. They become a part of your event team. And if you need to make a last-minute event change- or addition to an existing lineup- our music transport experts can step in and ensure the show goes on.

Call us now on 0113 797 898 to learn more about what we can do for your next show.

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