William Close Has MOMENTUM, Creating Unique Environmental Soundscapes with Giant, Handmade Instruments
Creator of the Earth Harp Integrates His Sonic Art with Visually Arresting Architecture
Sennheiser announced its MOMENTUM campaign, which together with Spotify highlights one hundred unique sound stories from all over the world: stories about creators with MOMENTUM, people who push the world forward with their creative passions. The stories feature artists, innovators and entrepreneurs in the truest sense, and serve to inspire others to uncover their own unique MOMENTUM.In April, audio specialist
William Close is the latest creative innovator in this series of inspiring stories. He is the creator of the largest stringed instrument in the world: the Earth Harp. The Earth Harp, which is comprised of a stationary resonant chamber and several brass strings measuring up to 1,000 feet long, has been strung to some of the world’s most architecturally unique and historic structures in the world including Colosseum in Rome and the Space Needle in Seattle. It has also been strung to Vietnamese temples, inside world-famous theaters and across valleys and mountains around the world.
Close, who graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago after studying painting, sculpture, architecture and sound, discovered his love for designing and creating unique instruments after building an ‘Exhaust Pipe Harp,’ which combined an old exhaust pipe he found with an ornate and beautifully carved structure he had crafted. While the Exhaust Pipe Harp, whose sound Close describes as a “grungy sitar”, was not the instrument from which he would gain his notoriety, it did firmly establish a process of instrument making and performing that would last his entire career. Since the Exhaust Pipe Harp, Close has gone on to build hundreds of instruments that are both sonically and visually unique — some of them wearable like the ‘percussion jacket.’
“The Earth Harp was originally made as an environmental piece,” Close explains. “The idea was to ‘string the earth’ as a metaphor to kind of keep the earth in tune. NASA says they have detected a pulse emanating from the center of the earth, and when you take that pulse up a bunch of octaves, it ends up being a “D” note. So the idea of turning the earth as an instrument is a great sort of connection – honoring that idea that the earth is actually creating its own tone. And I love the idea of Pythagoras’ “Music of the Spheres” – the idea that the planets in the solar system are all creating tones and if you could hear them all, it would be this symphony of sound emanating from the planets.”
MOMENTUM and The Ultimate Edit
In 2007, Close experienced what he still refers to as ”the ultimate edit.” Having recently purchased a home in the hills of Malibu, CA where his studio and practice space were also located, he walked out his front door one morning to find a ‘hurricane of fire’ with winds blowing up to 50 miles per hour. Flames engulfed the entire hillside, including his property. He escaped with his life, but all his possessions – including his home, his studio and every instrument he ever made — were destroyed. Eventually, he rebuilt all of his instruments and built a new home on the same spot. But this time, the structure included 72 built-in sprinklers. Close says the fire ended up being a ”fruitful event” in hindsight, since his new instruments were more refined and sounded better than his earlier creations.
“To create MOMENTUM in your own life, you need to allow yourself to explore something new or something else that you have always wanted to do,” says Close. “For me, when I lost my house in the wildfires and had everything burn to the ground, it was MOMENTUM that carried me through the experience. The idea of allowing yourself to continue on, to push through and explore new things is what MOMENTUM is all about.”
For more information and to learn about other people with MOMENTUM, visit www.sennheiser-momentum.com.