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Will it go 'round in circles...
April 24, 2013 11:48 PM   Subscribe

It's not so often that a new acoustic musical instrument is invented that really makes you go "wow!", but the Wheelharp might just make you go "double wow!"

In addition to the embedded Vimeo clip at the site, there are four audio samples further down the page that are quite lovely. Oh, and may I recommend the 5-octave model? A steal at only $11,900!
posted by flapjax at midnite (29 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's no udderbot, but yeah, pretty cool!
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:59 PM on April 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


I just totally did a 5-OCTAVE WOW
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:01 AM on April 25, 2013


Want!
posted by quazichimp at 12:06 AM on April 25, 2013


It's wheely good!
posted by mazola at 12:16 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't sound wheely, it sounds.. airy. I guess it is the attack and sustain, like an organ.
posted by Chuckles at 12:18 AM on April 25, 2013


it sounds.. airy. I guess it is the attack and sustain, like an organ.

Although it's mentioned on the page, it's worth noting here that the idea is born of the hurdy gurdy. See also, my previous posts on that wonderful instrument.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:29 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This sounds amazing. I'd like one with a janko style keyboard because why not.

It would cost all of the money I will ever make and it would be absolutely worth it.
posted by sandswipe at 1:08 AM on April 25, 2013


Amazing how it seems both modern and antique all at the same time.
posted by GoingToShopping at 1:33 AM on April 25, 2013


Amazing how it seems both modern and antique all at the same time.

Yes, I know what you mean, and, well, it pretty much *is* both modern and antique. The basic idea is as old as the hurdy gurdy (which is to say, thousands of years before the dawn of history).

I'd love to hear some modern players and composers work with the instrument. The steep price tag*, unfortunately, will prevent us from hearing what a lot of really interesting players might do with this thing.

*I understand why it has to be steep, mind you: it's a hella masterful piece of handiwork
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:43 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want one. I don't have space for one, but I'll empty a room for one of these!

That second sample (Voyage of Time) is great. I'm also surprised by the (relatively) staccato nature / speed of the notes this video around 1:50.

Also: I hope these stay in tune...
posted by swordfishtrombones at 1:44 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also: I hope these stay in tune...

I reckon tuning is no mean feat.

Oh, and back to the hurdy gurdy, just discovered this explanatory video from my new FB friend, Matthias Loibner, hurdy gurdy badass!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:51 AM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


In 2001, as Jon Jones was regulating his hurdy gurdy,

Is an introductory clause I have never before come across.
posted by three blind mice at 1:59 AM on April 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Oh, and ol' Leonardo was onto this idea, too...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:23 AM on April 25, 2013


It's like a mechanical mellotron!
posted by unSane at 4:42 AM on April 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mmmm, I love how the key pressure and wheel speed interact to control the amount of force going into each note, so you can really lean into the strings or just rake them lightly. Crazy amount of different possible sounds, from gritty and ancient to tense and bright. (I mean the same is true for a cello, but whatever, cellos don't have WHEELS, man). I'm starting to get the itch to build instruments for fun, just so I can write stuff with them. Like how Jedi build their own lightsabers, only somehow even more smug and pretentious.

Maybe Epiphone will come out with a knockoff Wheelharp for us starving-artist types..
posted by jake at 5:17 AM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's like a mechanical mellotron!

Having been messing with an EBow for the last few days, I kind of want someone to make a keyboard-controlled electromagnetic stringed instrument. It could be absolutely ghostly.
posted by Foosnark at 5:41 AM on April 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The only modern part of this is the electric motor, and you could replace that with a manual crank with a flywheel that you keep in motion with one foot or through the help of an assistant. I'm now trying to imagine an alternate history timeline where someone had that idea around the Baroque period and it come to prominence ahead of the fortepiano or harpsichord.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:52 AM on April 25, 2013


The steep price tag*, unfortunately, will prevent us from hearing what a lot of really interesting players might do with this thing.

I don't know; there are whole orchestras full of folks playing instruments that cost this much or more. My ex-wife's flute purchased 15 years ago cost about the same as this instrument, which makes it seem like a bargain to me. Also, if you use a musical instrument as a business tool (teaching, freelance performance), you can deduct the cost from your U.S. federal taxes. Somebody will find a way to pay for them if they can; which I hope they do, for the reason you stated.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 6:04 AM on April 25, 2013


A steal at only $11,900!

For a (let's assume/hope) high-quality, unique-ish musical instrument - yeah, actually, that doesn't seem bad at all.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:05 AM on April 25, 2013


This is incredible and, as a former upright bass player (don't let violinists fool you, there are much more expensive instruments), the price is actually very good for what this is.

Tuning? Bah, pianos need tuning too, this is manageable.

What I see as being a pain in the ass is maintenance. I'm thinking the strings themselves - replacement, and cleaning (due to rosin build up, maybe?)

Which leads me to the other part - applying rosin and dealing with bow-hair.
posted by MysticMCJ at 7:05 AM on April 25, 2013


double wow.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:17 AM on April 25, 2013


Thank you flapjax. I want one immediately. Even more at YouTube. Excellent.
posted by Schroder at 8:08 AM on April 25, 2013


Waiting for the portable version.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:11 AM on April 25, 2013


Don't forget Benjamin Franklin's Glass Harmonica!
posted by swift at 10:33 AM on April 25, 2013


I'd really love to have one of these. Schroder's link led me to this under-the-hood look at how the Wheelharp works. What a fascinating instrument and an inspired mind to come up with it.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:35 AM on April 25, 2013


If you're into the Hurdy-Gurdy and this grand new Wheelharp, you should also be aware of the guitar version used by 10CC called The Gizmo.
posted by Rash at 1:07 PM on April 25, 2013


Don't forget Benjamin Franklin's Glass Harmonica !

Well, of course not!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:04 PM on April 25, 2013


Having been messing with an EBow for the last few days, I kind of want someone to make a keyboard-controlled electromagnetic stringed instrument. It could be absolutely ghostly.

Your wish is granted.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:08 PM on April 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


kinnakeet: "Waiting for the portable version."

Zapstraps, duck tape, and wagons, oh my!
posted by mannequito at 11:09 PM on April 25, 2013


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