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Using 3,000 feet of brass musical wire and a glass and concrete wall, a California artist has created two giant stringed instruments at Salt Lake City's Library Square.
These 16-string "Earth Harps," along with other giant sculptured instruments, are a featured element of the 2008 Utah Arts Festival, which begins today and continues through Sunday.
Both harps use the brick wall on the east side of the library as an anchor. One harp stretches 200 feet to the east, attaching to a resonator near the amphitheater stage, while the strings of the second harp travel 100 feet down to The Round on the west side of the wall.
Attendees will get to play the massive instruments each night beginning at 8 p.m.
When played, the harps "sound a lot like a cello," said artist and creator Bill Close, who came up with the idea while attending art school in the early 1990s. A piano tuner gave him a roll of piano wire, and he starting running long strings everywhere, "just to try to figure out what I could do with it."
The instrument evolved and now utilizes a large resonating chamber weighted to the ground. The strings spread out from there, attaching to a roof or other part of a building.
"The architecture is the instrument, so each one is always a little different," Close said.
The harp received its name several years ago when Close first ran strings across a 1,000-foot valley. It set a record for the longest stringed instrument in the world.
Since then, 38-year-old Close has created instruments in all sorts of unusual locations, from the Space Needle in Seattle to the Kennedy Center in New York and even a temple in Vietnam.
The harp is played using rosin-covered, cotton gloves. Rather than plucking the strings, performers run their fingertips along the strings to generate vibration, something similar to running fingers around the top of a crystal glass.
In addition to the Earth harp, Close has created hundreds of instruments ranging from 3 inches to 1,100 feet. Many are played - along with the harp - as part of Close's internationally renowned performance group, MASS (music movement and sonic sculptures) Ensemble. The group will close out the Arts Festival on Sunday at 9:30 p.m.
Lisa Sewell, the festival's executive director, invited Close to Utah last year to survey the library site and determine if it was "harp worthy."
He was immediately drawn to the curved wall on the eastern side of the library and "thought it would be fabulous," she said.
During the day, Sewell said, it's difficult to see the strings suspended high above the ground, but Sunday night Utahns will be able to sit under the lighted strings and feel their sonic vibrations.
"That's what will make this really amazing," she said.
* JULIE CHECKOWAY contributed to this report.
* The Utah Arts Festival is today through Sunday from noon to 11 p.m. at Library Square, 210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City. Food, music, film, crafts and, of course, art. Tickets are $10, $5 for kids 12 and under, $5 from noon to
3 p.m.; http://www.uaf.org.
* The Earth Harp jam sessions are nightly 8 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. at The Round with Bill Close, artistic director. Earth Harp performance is Sunday, 9:30 to 11 p.m., Amphitheater Stage.