Tipu’s Tiger

Tipu’s Tiger

Tipu’s Tiger (also Tippoo’s Tiger), c. 1793, Mysore, painted wood with metal fixtures © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Tipu’s Tiger (also Tippoo’s Tiger), c. 1793, Mysore, painted wood with metal fixtures (The Victoria and Albert Museum, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

An extraordinary object

Tipu Sultan’s mechanical, musical tiger has long been one of the most well-known items in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. A large automaton (a machine that can move by itself), the tiger is shown in the act of attacking a European man. When played, the man’s left arm flails and the organ emits the sounds of the roaring cat and the cries of its victim. Perhaps what is most striking about the tiger is its change in ownership and meanings: it was made for an Indian ruler who spent much of his adult life fighting the British, and it later became a tool for imperial propaganda in Britain.

Tipu Sultan and tigers

The Apprehension Engine: An Instrument Designed to Play the Music of Nightmares

The Apprehension Engine: An Instrument Designed to Play the Music of Nightmares

Movie composer Mark Korven wanted to craft the perfect sounds for horror movies, but the instruments he needed didn’t exist, and he was tired of using the same digital samples. To produce the original effects needed for evoking breathtaking moments of suspension, he teamed up with guitar maker Tony Duggan-Smith to craft an original instrument that would better aid in manufacturing fear. The Apprehension Engine is that tool, a mechanism built with several bowed metal rulers, spring reverbs, a few long metal rods, and other attachments that allow for spooky interludes and effects.

“A normal instrument, you are playing it and expecting it to have a sound that is pleasing,” said Korven to Great Big Story, “but with an instrument like this, the goal is to produce sounds, that in this case, are disturbing.”

The Apprehension Engine expresses the emotions that cannot be expressed in other ways, triggering fear with intense sonic methods. You can listen to more music by the machine tuned to provoke horror in the video below. (via Great Big Story)

There is a playable violin make of black stone, called the Blackbird

There is a playable violin make of black stone, called the Blackbird

The Blackbird is a full-size playable violin made of black diabase, based on designs by Antonio Stradivari (Stradivarius), but with technical modifications to allow it to be played. The violin was conceived and produced by the Swedish artist Lars Widenfalk.

The idea of constructing a musical instrument from stone came when Lars Widenfalk was working on big diabase blocks destined to form part of the artistic embellishment of the Norwegian TV building in Oslo. These blocks gave off a strikingly beautiful and strong sound during the work with hammer and chisel – it sang like an iron bell. It is also well-known among sculptors and geologists that different rock types have different sounds when being worked. Continue reading

New scientific study confirms the obvious: Freddie Mercury had an unparalleled singing voice

New scientific study confirms the obvious: Freddie Mercury had an unparalleled singing voice

Regardless of what they might think personally about Queen, most rock critics and music fans alike recognize the immense vocal talent that was the great Freddie Mercury. Still, in case there was ever any doubt, new analysis of both Mercury’s singing and speaking voices has shed fresh light on just how special his pipes really were.A group of Austrian, Czech, and Swedish researchers conducted the research, the results of which were published on Friday in Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology (via AlphaGalileo). While they couldn’t confirm the long-held belief that Mercury’s range spanned four full octaves, they did discover some interesting tidbits about the expanse of his voice. For one, despite being known largely as a tenor, he was more likely a baritone. They based this assumption off six interviews they analyzed to find a median speaking fundamental frequency of 117.3 Hz. That, coupled with anecdotal evidence that Mercury once turned down an opera duet because he was afraid fans wouldn’t recognize his baritone voice, led the conclusion that the singer was talented enough to jump out of his base range. Continue reading

Clara Rockmore and the Theremin

Clara Rockmore: Story of the theremin virtuoso who inspired Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones

Clara Rockmore was a pioneer of electronic music and, had she still been alive, would have turned 105 today.

Rockmore was a master of the theremin – the world’s first electronic music instrument and first instrument that could be played without being touched. The theremin inspired the likes of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Beach Boys. And was the instrument that led to the creation of the first synthesizer.

On what would have been her 105th birthday, Rockmore has been commemorated with a Google Doodle. The interactive game teaches you to play the theremin by hovering your mouse over the notes to play a melody. Continue reading

The last Stradivarius guitar

The Only Playable Stradivarius Guitar Left in the World “The Sabionari” Made in 1679

Rolf Lislevand plays A.Stradivari’s 1679 “Sabionari” guitar

Legendery Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari is generally considered the most significant and greatest artisan in his field, constructing the world’s finest violins that today are sold for millions of dollars.

In his lifetime he (and the Stradivari family) produced over 1000 instruments, of which 960 were violins, however a small number of guitars were also crafted, and as of today only one remains playable. Continue reading

Angklung Documentary

The amazing bamboo plant has been cultivated and utilized by mankind for thousands of years, and even though modern production techniques have supplied builders and craftsmen with technologically superior materials for many applications still this rapidly growing plant is the first choice in many countries for their industrial building, furniture, and even musical instrument manufacturing. Such is the case with the Angklung, a fascinating bamboo percussion instrument found throughout Southeast Asia.  Though probably indigenous to the West Java and Banten provinces in Indonesia, the Angklung has also been played by the Sundanese for many centuries.  I stumbled upon this interesting documentary on Youtube, and thought I’d share it…


Wallace Hartley’s Titanic Violin Discovered

Wallace Hartley’s Titanic Violin Discovered

Wallace Hartley, the son of a mill worker, learned to play music as a student at the George St Wesleyan School and later played at a local chapel where his father was choirmaster.

Survivors recount seeing the band playing even as water gushed on board, a scene which has been captured and recounted in most every telling of the sinking of the Titanic.

Hartley perished in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, along with 1,516 other people. Continue reading

History of the Oud

History of the Oud

1. The Term ‘ud

Detail from Maghrebi miniature, 13th cent. Literally, ‘ud means ‘twig’, ‘flexible rod’ or ‘aromatic stick’, and by inference ‘piece of wood’. In Ibn Khaldun (14th century), ‘ud denoted the plectrum of the lute called barbat. The etymology of the word has occasioned numerous commentaries, among them Farmer’s alluring thesis that the Arabs adopted the term to differentiate the instrument, with its wooden sound-table, from the similar Persian barbat, whose belly is covered with skin. Continue reading