Humanity became great for two reasons: our ability to create beauty through art, and our urge to build increasingly huge, terrifying gadgets. It only makes sense that these two impulses would converge in amazing, if largely useless, ways. That's how we wind up with huge and insane musical instruments like ...
Uberorgan isn't just the Internet username of millions of 15-year-old males -- it's also something much stranger. Imagine a series of gigantic alien bagpipes, mixed with a monstrous player piano, all connected by huge translucent worms that snake throughout the bulk of a 15,000-square-foot gallery. Pictured that yet? Good job! You just dreamed up the huge, terrifying musical instrument known as Uberorgan.
From the lesser known sequel, Willy Wonka and the Church Organ from Hell.
Uberorgan is a self-playing (and, we're convinced, self-aware) musical machine in which several bus-sized biomorphic balloons are tuned to different octaves so that when pressurized air is blown through a reed, a specific sound is produced. The notes themselves are encoded on a 250-foot-long scroll bearing dots and dashes that translate to "traditional hymns, pop songs and improvisational tunes." The score is deciphered by the organ's "brain," which is essentially a giant, light-sensitive player piano.
But what if you're not too keen on the built-in playlist? Well, due to the light-sensitive nature of the brain, you can always stop the score at a blank space and play the organ like a piano by blocking light from reaching each sensor. That is, until the thing finally decides that it's had enough of being cramped up in a museum and bursts out in a wave of destruction across Los Angeles like some kind of otherworldly jellyfish, puffing Katy Perry tunes the entire way.
"I swear to Christ, if one more person requests the intro to 'Don't Stop Believin'..."
As we've demonstrated in the past, the harp has long been a tinker toy for music majors with little to do after college but reinvent the proverbial musical wheel in their studio apartments (read: all music majors). However, unlike the laser harp that we showed you before, this particular creation is a little less sci-fi and a lot more down-to-earth. And huge. What you're looking at above is called the Earth Harp, which earned its hippie-friendly title by traversing a valley in the Santa Monica mountain range with a balanced tension system that looks like the result of Mother Nature getting knocked up by a cello.
They use a helicopter to restring it.
The Earth Harp is the brainchild of Bill Close, artistic director of MASS Ensemble, who wanted to turn part of the planet itself into a giant, playable harp, because why the hell not? The instrument is composed of strings over 1,000 feet in length connecting the mountain ridge to a platform below, and holds the world record for the longest stringed instrument. Looking at it, you'd think it requires a huge robot or something to play it, but you can actually just play it with your regular old hands.
The Earth Harp
While hanging upside down. Probably should mention that part.
While this mountain installation is probably the most awe-inspiring, smaller scale Earth Harps have been strung across many famous architectural sites, such as the Space Needle in Seattle, the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and the World Financial Center in New York.
The Earth Harp
This seems like one of those examples of human hubris that ends up in the Old Testament.
In some instances, the strings of the Earth Harp can actually be stretched over the heads of the audience, effectively placing them inside the instrument. It's been described as "standing inside the body of a cello or the belly of a whale." Of course, as far as we know no one has ever managed to survive either of those scenarios, so take that description with a grain of salt -- or a drop of acid.
You probably thought we were being facetious there, but we were really setting the stage to show you this Earth Harp that was constructed at Burning Man in 2011. That's called foreshadowing, people:
Yes, that staircase is playable. We wouldn't have included it on this list if it was just some stupid staircase somebody painted like piano keys. That working piano staircase is the creation of Volkswagen, whose marketing department is apparently comprised entirely of huge fans of the movie Big.
Marketing is Everywhere
Go ahead, get it out of your system. Play "Chopsticks."
The point of the campaign is The Fun Theory, which was supposed to prove some kind of point about how people will usually choose the more fun option. You know, like their cars. Or something. Anyway, for the Piano Staircase, engineers from Volkswagen were redirected from, you know, designing cars, and sent to Sweden to make a musical staircase next to an escalator, in an effort to get people to play notes on the stairs, Tom Hanks-style, rather than letting the escalator haul their lazy asses up.
And apparently it worked. Volkswagen's goal was to see if more people would take the stairs if it was more fun than the escalator, and they did. They presumably had a secondary goal of seeing if it was funnier when fat people fell down the stairs if it made a comical little tune on the way down, but there is no video of those results.
Finally, a way to make hungover commuting even less pleasant.
And no, we still have no idea how this was supposed to help sell cars. Speaking of which ...