Carrot Clarinets And Musical Roads – More Weird Music
March 10, 2014

Carrot Clarinets And Musical Roads – More Weird Music

Remember the Sadist’s Synth – the bizarre cat piano I wrote about here? That was not the only weird music machine that captured my imagination. I have a broad taste in music and have even been known to enjoy one of its most painful manifestations – Japanese Noise Music. It’s OK, I’m feeling better now, thanks for asking. While the Sadist’s Synth was a bit too extreme, even for me, here’s a few beauties that are more up my sonic street.

Musical roads, now that’s a great idea. Just turn off the radio and listen to the road. There are a few of these in Japan, where they are known as Melody Roads. Grooves are cut into the road at carefully calculated intervals designed to produce music as you drive over them at specific speeds. This, the Japanese hope, encourages drivers to obey speed limits. The “Singing Road” in South Korea is along similar lines, but this one apparently plays Mary had a Little Lamb in an effort to keep drivers alert and slow down. I suspect there might just be an incentive to drive as fast as you can to get over the damn thing if you have to cross it every day on the way to work. The best-known musical road has to be the one in Lancaster, California that is supposed to play the William Tell Overture. After complaints from locals the road had to be moved and aficionados now claim the replacement just doesn’t do it like the old one.

There are a few “Wave Organs” around the world, notably San Francisco’s own that was built in 1986. One of the largest is about 90 miles down the road from me in Blackpool, a haven for British holidaymakers looking for the “cheap and cheerful” end of the market. The Blackpool High Tide Organ consists of eight large pipes that run from the seawall into a giant fin-like structure made up of 18 church organ pipes. Ever changing pressure from the waves produce a range of sounds that vary between the truly musical and the moans, groans, and disturbing noise of a nightmare – sounds good to me. Can I have one outside my house please?

How about a veggie band? The Vegetable Orchestra of Vienna might be just the thing. Founded in 1998, the VOV is one of a kind. Playing to enthusiastic audiences round the world, they have captured the very niche market of playable food. Almost all the instruments are made of food – recorders and clarinets made of carrots, and everything from panpipes to percussion using leek, celery, onionskin, pumpkin and artichoke. With an obviously short shelf-life and sell-by dates to consider the Vegetable Orchestra’s instruments only last a couple of days and are supplemented by “utensils,” power drills, and other objects. They describe their sound as a “heterogeneous multitude of acoustic gems and strange, unfamiliar sounds.” These guys like their words as much as their vegetables and describe their sounds as “phantasmagorical continents of sound and imaginary gardens.” To round off the night the performers like to get down with the audience and feed them generous quantities of, you guessed it, vegetable soup.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Eric Hopton is a writer, musician, artist, and photographer. He has a degree in Social Anthropology and has always been passionate about travel, having so far visited 73 countries. His music and sound work has been used in many projects around the world and can be heard on Bandcamp and Freesound, where he has contributed over 1,300 sounds under his sonic alter ego, ERH.

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