TOPICS > Arts

Artist’s ‘Earth harp’ a site to behold — and hear

June 2, 2016 at 6:15 PM EDT
In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, installation artist William Close is creating a new kind of musical space with his invention, the earth harp. By fixing 1,000-foot strings to mountain peaks, arches, the tops of skyscrapers, canyon walls or the interior of the Kennedy Center, Close can turn any architectural or natural environment into a totally unique instrument.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: And finally tonight, our “NewsHour” Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you, too.

The Earth Harp is a unique musical installation that can turn any architectural or natural space into an instrument. We recently spoke with its inventor, Malibu-based William Close, during a three-week exhibition at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C.

WILLIAM CLOSE, Earth Harp Inventor: My name is William Close. I am an installation artist and an instrument inventor.

The Earth Harp, I invented right around the turn of the millennium. I actually mounted a series of chambers to one side of a valley, and I ran strings 1,000 feet across to the other side, creating a literal harp out of the earth.

The way the Earth Harp works is, the strings are going from the chamber which rests on the stage, and they are going out and attaching into the architecture of the space that it inhabits. At the Kennedy Center, the strings are going up and tying into the building itself and turning the hall into the instrument.

You could wear rosin-covered gloves and run your hands along the strings and actually create what’s called a compression wave. It’s very similar to running your finger on the edge of a wine glass. And the sound is very symphonic.

Here are the Kennedy Center, it sounds like I’m in a cathedral when I play. It’s just really beautiful. When I play the Earth Harp, I’m actually standing inside the strings, and so I’m surrounded by all that vibration and music, and it’s really fantastic.

I have had the Earth Harp in so many different environments. I have strung it to a mountain peak. I have strung it to the top of skyscrapers. The Earth Harp has been at the Coliseum in Rome, where it was strung out to the Arch of Constantine.

From the very beginning, when I developed the instrument, the Earth Harp has really captured people’s imagination, and, also, it’s really validated itself as a truly functional musical instrument.

HARI SREENIVASAN: On the “NewsHour” online right now: Drug-resistant superbugs are already an enormous public health problem. But they’re also a global economic problem. On our Making Sense site, a columnist takes a closer look at what it could cost us.

All that and more is on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

Tonight on “Charlie Rose”: retired General David Petraeus on the challenges facing Iraqi and American forces in the new offensive to drive ISIS out of the city of Fallujah.

And two news updates before we leave you tonight.

The Navy has confirmed the pilot of the Blue Angels jet that crashed in Tennessee was killed. And, in Texas, three soldiers are dead and six are missing after a truck overturned in a rain-swollen creek at Fort Hood.

And that’s the “NewsHour” for tonight. I’m Hari Sreenivasan.

Join us online and again here tomorrow evening with Mark Shields and David Brooks.

For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour,” thank you. Have a good night.

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