Music of the Sphere

George W. Hart

Above is me modeling a sculpture called Music of the Sphere, made of steel and silver brazed.  It is actually a musical instrument that you wear.  There are two parts: the icosahedral ball hanging in front of me and the head piece.  The 30 spiral components of the ball resonate and the sound is conducted in stereo by a pair of wires from the ball up to the headpiece, which has two bumps that rest lightly against your skull.  You play it percussively with sticks, or by closing your eyes, walking around, and banging it into things.  The sound conducts directly into your head through your skull, and it sounds like you are inside some kind of gigantic vibrating metal cathedral.

The picture above shows John Horton Conway wearing and playing Music of the Sphere at the 1997 Mathematics and Art Conference at S.U.N.Y. Albany NY.  (Great shirt for this!)

The underlying idea for this comes from a 1970's college activity of taking the rack out of an oven, (first make sure it is cool!) suspending it in a "V" of wire, holding the two ends of the wire against your temples, and stumbling around the kitchen while bent forward so the rack can bang freely against the walls and furniture. I had assumed this was a recent invention, but I collect old reference books and was surprised recently when I read the following:

If a person tie a poker, or any other piece of metal on to the middle of a strip of flannel about a yard long, then press with his thumbs or fingers the ends of the flannel into his ears, while he swings the poker against any obstacle, as an iron or steel fender, he will hear a sound very like that of a large church bell.

This is from an 1849 edition of Thomas Tegg's Young Man's Book of Knowledge (p. 193). So apparently I am just part of a long artistic tradition here...

copyright 1999, 2003, George W. Hart