The long string instrument is an instrument where the string is of such a length that the fundamental transverse wave is below what we can hear as a tone (±20 Hz). If the tension and the length result in sounds with such a frequency the tone becomes a beating frequency ranging from a short reverb (approx 5–10 meters) to longer echo sounds (longer than 10 meter). Besides the beating frequency, the string also gives higher pitched natural overtones. Since the length is that long this has an effect on the attack tone. The attack tone 'shoots' through the string in a longitudinal wave and generates the typical science fiction "laser gun" sound as heard in Star Wars. The sound is also similar to that occurring in upper electricity cables for trains (which are ready made long string instruments in a way).
One example of a long instrument was invented by the American composer Ellen Fullman. It is tuned in just intonation and played by walking along the length of its approximately 100 90-foot-long strings and rubbing them with rosined hands and producing longitudinal vibrations. A C-clamp is used on each string for putting tension on the strings, much like a guitar capo, and a resonator is placed on the end the musician faces. This 'Long String Instrument's range is centered on the octave of middle C and extends above and below this by an octave. The strings of the bass octave extend the instrument's full 90 feet.
Fullman is not the only person who has built long string instruments. Alvin Lucier has employed a monochord of up to 25 meters in his piece Music On A Long Thin Wire (1977). Since 1983, in addition to his work on and about the violin, Jon Rose has been bowing and recording the music of fences worldwide. In 2008 Paul Panhuysen made large sound installations with groups of long strings. George Smits built long string instruments acoustically amplified with styrofoam.
The experimental luthier and recording artist Yuri Landman built a portable electric long string instrument. A three minute solo that he recorded in a garden on this instrument can be heard on YouTube, uploaded in 2011.
- ^ "The story behind the creation of the lasergun sound in Star Wars".
- ^ Ellen Fullman Biography, ellenfullman.com
- ^ Album notes for 'Music on a Long Thin Wire', Lovely Music/Lovely.com.
- ^ Drawing the Line, article on Jon Rose's CD The Fence, jonroseweb.com
- ^ Paul Panhuysen, Maja Ratkje, Han Bennink & Co. à Mechelen, globeglauber.wordpress.com, 18.10.08 (in French)
- ^ http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/reviews/albums/yuri-landman-ensemble-thats-right-go-cats-97696
- ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVFI4cbQAQE
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