Arts & Culture

If you build the harp, they will play!

WilliamClose-DuncanBuild what? It is the Earth Harp, a large musical instrument that spans across a great distance. Today, the Earth Harp is spanning 150 feet from the sidewalk to the roof of the Duncan Theatre on the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach State College.

William Close is the artist/musician/innovator who created the instrument and will perform this weekend. The harp takes brass strings that each have a tuning plate for each note. It’s called an Earth Harp because Close originally made one that spanned 1000 feet across a valley onto the side of a mountain, making the valley part of the instrument.

“It’s more of an art installation, or performance art,” said Mark Alexander, Duncan Theatre director. “It was our idea to do both the outdoor along with the indoor performances. You see the whole experiential part of creating the instruments when you can see Close playing outside in the middle of the campus. A new sense of wonder creates the spark of creativity for those who participate.”

Close’s work explores the connection between architecture and music.  Inspired by the Frank Lloyd Wright quote “architecture is frozen music,” Close creates musical installations that use the architecture as part of the instrument.  Some of his other instruments include the Drum Orb, the Percussion Jacket, the Aquatar, the Wing Harp, and the Drumbrella to name a few.

Alexander first booked “The Earth Harp” back in 2007 when the Duncan celebrated its 20th anniversary season. In the following years, Close has created and built hundreds of new and unusual instruments including giant sculptural drums and various sized harps.

In 2012 Alexander saw Close make it to third place on the hit TV show, “America’s Got Talent,” and it reminded him of how much fun his last performance was. So Alexander asked him here for a second performance. He wants his audience and the College community to experience the amazing new instruments Close has created. Seven instruments will be featured in the show Saturday, March 22 at the Duncan Theatre.


As for Close, he loves working in the performing arts environment and college campuses where students are really open to learning new things. “They’re not afraid to ask questions or learn how to play the harp,” he said.

Close loves the curious minds of students, faculty and staff who have come out to see and play the Earth Harp. To add to the whole experience, William offered to have a yoga and sound workshop with yoga instructor Shona Castillo. The College Wellness Center hosted a stretching workshop underneath the harp.

After the yoga class each of the students lined up to play the harp. They put on violin rosin-filled gloves and at the first touch, their eyes opened wide, as they seemed shocked and delighted that they were making music by pulling on these thin, brass strings.

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