May 14 – William Close Plays His Earth Harp on TV

Posted May 14, 2015

In 2012, a friend of mine wanted to watch a taping of “America's Got Talent.” Because I live near Hollywood, I could see a lot of live tapings of television shows, I suppose – but I have only very rarely done so – it's not really my thing. But my friend really wanted to go, so of course I went.

The show I watched, Episode 701, was taped in a beautiful old Hollywood theater. It was easy to see the stage and the performers – every seat was a good seat! – and the ornate theater was something I really enjoyed seeing.

But there was something odd about the theater...

At first I didn't notice, but my eye kept catching a faint gleam here, and a glittery thread there – and finally I realized that there seemed to be wires running everywhere, all over the theater. They were difficult to see, but I could see light glinting off a bit of wire whenever I moved my head.

I couldn't figure out why the wires were there! Could they be just decorations? Surely they couldn't be used for anything – they literally ran from near the stage, over the audience's heads, to various positions of the wall.

But when the show started and the first contestant came out and explained his act, I suddenly realized why the theater was “all wired up.” The contestant was William Close, and he was an artist / musician / inventor of musical instruments – and he had transformed the entire theater into a huge musical instrument.

I was sitting inside an Earth Harp!

Close's earth harp is considered the longest-stringed instrument in the world, with strings that extend up to 1,000 feet in length (depending on where it is). Close uses the architecture and / or landscape of a place to determine the exact sound of each earth harp – and the architecture and landscape actually BECOMES part of the instrument!

Close wore gloves covered with violin rosin, and he began to run his hands along the strings. And gorgeous tones, amazing music, filled the theater.

This photo shows a bit of another of
Close's inventions that I heard that
day: a drum orb.
F – I – L – L – E – D the theater. And filled me. I felt my body vibrating in synch with those strings!

It was probably the best live experience with music I've ever had.

I think that the entire audience was in shock and awe as we listed to Close's earth harp. I know that, when he finished, it took us a moment to come to, jump up onto our feet, and make a huge, long-lasting standing ovation!

Why “Earth Harp”?

The first time Close installed an earth harp, way back in 1999, he ran strings from one side of a valley 1,000 feet to the other side. He turned the landscape into a giant harp! Since then he has installed temporary earth harps all over the world. He strung strings all the way to the top of the Seattle Space Needle, for example, and in temples in Vietnam, and in the Coliseum in Rome. And Macau and Hong Kong and India and the Kennedy Center in the U.S.!

Burning Man, above
Jerusalem, below

Check out William Close's official website, and watch some of the videos of his America's Got Talent appearances.

  • Today is the anniversary of the airing on television of the episode I'd seen taped.

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