Even if I am not looking, weird and crazy instruments populate my mind. I look for them on the Internet, I get photos from family and friends, and even acquaintances join the act once they know about my madness. I am less surprised as time goes on, but still I have been witness either in pictures or in the flesh to some pretty unique musical gadgets. I almost want to keep some of them a secret, to reveal slowly as singular treats for just the right fellow traveler.
I will a few of the best exemplars in this odd world in this blog as a foretaste of what is to come. People make their own things, sometimes from trash and the detritus of life, getting surprising sounds out of it. I saw a TV show on poor kids in Rio who lived outside a major city in a dump. An entire orchestra was created from the large recyclable pickings. Skilled artisans have also been known to fabricate exquisite offerings of a musical nature apart from the tried-and true, quality inventory of musical life out there for amateurs to professionals.
I can appreciate the normal realm of fine instruments, but they pale when I am in the hunt for something really novel and eye-catching. If you think it is rare and imposing, send it my way. Meanwhile, I cite the following as stand-outs in the field of the odd, the rare, and the exceptional.
The glass harmonica: I have been privy to a concert with this impressive and beautiful object. Few people excel at it. It uses glass bowls in graduated sizes to produce a pleasant sound, but all in all it is simply fun to watch. Also known as a friction idiophone, it requires a deft wet finger to operate. Lest you think it that rare, over 100 composers of note (including Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven) have known compositions that feature it in some way.
Old Chinese bells: I love the sound of bells; and while there are many, especially in Asia, some are simply heavenly to encounter. In the right setting, they are enchanting, evocative, and mystically foreign. They vary in number and produce an original quality depending upon their size and material. Chime bells in cast bronze have been excavated from digs and speak of eras long ago when wood hammers brought forth great purity and intensity of sound.
Hybrid Instruments: There are guitar harps and lute zithers, convertible pianos, and ukulele kazoos. There is no end to what can be combined for originality of appearance and sound. While some ideas work well than others, it is a creative enterprise begging for the next big invention.
I have seen guitars with four necks, something you blow called the serpent (a kind of bass trombone), an Aeolian Harp, an old French hurdy-gurdy, and a Swedish Nyckelharpa. I have come across an electric base thumb piano, various sound-producing ceramic vessels, and a Rumitome. You all know aborigine the didgeridoo. I defy you to challenge my range of experience.