The California-based inventor, musician, and performance artist William Close brings us a unique spherical percussion instrument dubbed the Drum Orb. The work is ten feet in diameter, and during performances it’s suspended fifteen feet in the air by a steel cable and played with soft mallets. According to Close, who has a background in architecture and the arts, large outdoor globes such as the Unisphere that was built for the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair in Queens inspired him to create the instrument. Close says his goals included creating a fully functional musical instrument as opposed to a piece of performance art.
The Drum Orb spins freely when suspended, and bungee cords hold multiple Remo frame drums within the sphere. When a drum is played, sympathetic vibrations create tones from the adjacent drumheads that haven’t been hit. The instrument can be played simultaneously by multiple performers and, according to Close, creates full, thundering sounds. Live, Close enhances the theatrical dynamics by incorporating suspended aerial drummers who play the set.
Close tells MD that if what he imagines musically doesn’t exist, he’ll create it himself. For evidence of another of his inventive ventures, search online for the Earth Harp, a nearly thousand-foot stringed harp that the artist suspends over audiences; it holds the Guinness record for the world’s longest stringed instrument.
The Drum Orb has been adapted for rock, jazz, classical, and electronic settings. The setup breaks down to fit into three suitcases and can be checked for airplane travel. Close has performed internationally with the setup in Ibiza, Spain; Shanghai, China; and throughout the United States. For more info on the Drum Orb and Close’s other projects, head to earthharpsymphony.com.
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