Blaster Beam

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The Blaster Beam is a concept electronic musical instrument consisting of a 12 to 18-foot (5.5 m) long metal beam strung with numerous tensed wires under which are mounted electric guitar pickups which can be moved to alter the sound produced. The instrument is played by striking or plucking the strings with fingers, sticks, pipes or even large objects such as artillery shell casings. The instrument produces a very distinctive bass tone, the sound of which is often described as 'dark' or 'sinister'.

The Beam was designed by John Lazelle in the early 1970s, and was first widely used by Francisco Lupica who built several out of iron. American child actor turned musician, Craig Huxley, created his own refined version of the Beam out of aluminum which was brought to fame in the soundtrack for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) in which composer Jerry Goldsmith used the instrument to create the signature V'ger sound. The instrument was also used by composer James Horner for several of his early soundtracks, including Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Michael Stearns for his score to the IMAX film Chronos, and in David Shire's soundtrack to 2010 (1984), which was co-written by Huxley. Huxley also played the instrument on the Quincy Jones song, "Ai No Corrida." Huxley successfully patented his design of the Beam in 1984.

The instrument has since been used to create dark unnatural sounds in other movie soundtracks in the late 1970s and early 1980s including the films The Black Hole, Forbidden World, and Meteor, in the last of which it was used during shots of the giant looming meteorite as it approached Earth. It has also been used by new age artists including Kitaro, Stearns and Huxley. The Blaster Beam was also used for the seismic charge sound used by Jango Fett, in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

Some more unexpected attention came in the early nineties when several women attending a music concert in New York's Central Park claimed to have been sexually stimulated by the sound created by a Blaster Beam being used in the performance. This prompted Australian radio station 2SER-FM to conduct an experiment in which they played a continuous loop of a Blaster Beam performance and asked their female listeners to report any stimulation they experienced. On this occasion none of the show's listeners reported any arousal whatsoever.

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