World Record Holder William Close Brings Unique Musical Instruments to the Ozarks

A theater at Silver Dollar City has been turned into a giant instrument for a new festival taking place this month.

Rex Burdette, show producer and director at the park, says the Festival of Wonder has an appropriate name.

“Most of the things that you see here are wondrous, and you can’t imagine somebody, number one, being creative, maybe, to come up with some of these things but then also to be able to do them.  I mean, inventing a harp like this–Earth harp–then you’ve gotta learn how to play it,” he said.

Burdette is referring to one of the shows at the Festival of Wonder, which features a giant harp as well as other created instruments.

William Close is the brains behind the Earth Harp Collective, with a harp whose strings stretch from the stage of the Red Gold Heritage Hall to the back of the theater, an aquatar and other unique musical instruments.

He came in third on season seven of America’s Got Talent, and that opened up new doors to him for sharing his music with the world.

His story begins at the Art Institute of Chicago where he was looking for a way to combine his studies of sculpture, architecture and music.  He started building musical instruments.  His first was an exhaust pipe harp.  After that he built some big drum pieces.

“Then I heard this great quote, ‘architecture is frozen music,’ and that’s a Frank Lloyd Wright quote…and that became the impetus to sort of think about larger instruments the size of architecture,” Close said.

He’s created 20 different earth harps. They got their name from where the first one was built.  He tells the audience he set up a series of chambers on one side of a valley and attached strings from those 1000 feet to the other side, “turning that canyon or valley into a giant, giant harp.”

Since then, he’s taken the instrument all over the world.  In 2014, he set a world record for largest stringed instrument by stringing a harp from the base of the a skyscraper in Singapore up nearly 958 feet.

The harps are played by rubbing resin-covered gloves on the strings, which produces a tone.

(plays a note)  “Now, this is a purely acoustic sound,” he said.  “It’s just…microphones in the chambers.”

The instrument is tuned with tuning blocks attached to the strings.  The further out the block is, the lower the pitch.

(demonstrating pitches) “So, this would be one of the highest notes, and as I go down the scale you’ll notice the blocks get further and further away from the bridge.  This is a large G.  It’s all the way out there.  I can’t even see it.  That’s how I’m able to determine the scale no matter where the Earth harp is set up,” he said.

And there are other instruments Close created that are featured in the show.  One is the drumbrella, which Close plays while it’s spun by a person holding it.

“You know, I was interested in creating something that was kenetic, so a piece that spun, and by it moving it affects what’s being played,” he said.

There’s also an aquatar, which…

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