William Close and the Earth Harp Collective: A unique experience

PHOTO PROVIDED William Close and the Earth Harp Collective will perform 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St.

On Friday at 7:30 p.m., the Community Arts Center will be transformed into a musical instrument. Yes, you read that correctly. The CAC stage will not merely feature musical instruments as it has done so many times in the past, but the entirety of the 2,078 seat theater will become one giant stringed instrument, as the Earth Harp Collective comes to Williamsport.

Invented and created by multi instrumentalist William Close, the Earth Harp holds the world record for “longest playable stringed instrument,” and has been played in venues all over the world. Owing to its unique nature of having to adapt to each location in which it is being played, the Earth Harp has been wonderfully received and featured in world class performance halls, auditoriums, and ancient temples, as well as outdoor settings, including canyons, sacred lands and atop skyscrapers.

In a typical indoor performance, the giant strings of the harp are tied directly to a load bearing portion of the architecture, usually a balcony, while the chambers of the instrument are on stage. Because of this, the strings extend out over the audience, making concert goers literally a part of the music, from the inside. To wit, the New York Times has claimed that an Earth Harp Collective concert is, “Like being in a giant cello.”

The Earth Harp was first created in the late 1990s, when Close mounted resonators and a bridge roughly the size of two grand pianos to the naked ground outdoors in a valley. From the bridge and resonators, very large strings were extended to the opposite side of the valley, 1,000 feet away, creating an enormous harp out of the earth, from which unheard of melodies reverberated.

After awing and mesmerizing audiences the world over, Close has not stalled in his development and refinement of the instrument. He continues to work on improving and enhancing the harp’s sonic grandeur. To date, he has designed and built over 50 different resonating chambers and bridges for the instrument, and at any given time he has on hand 15 preferred setups to choose from for standard indoor shows.

One of the most visually and sonically appealing setups of the Earth Harp was the Mountain Installation, in which the Harp’s strings extended from the performance stage to the top of a nearby mountain peak. Rock climbing equipment and tools had to be utilized to secure the strings, and their location atop the mountain was just over a group of cliffside caves, which, when the harp was played, echoed and reverberated the notes for miles.

Such outdoor installations like a mountain or skyscraper can take up to three days from beginning to end, as calibration of the harp — and safety assurance — are very technically demanding in such locations. Since the Community Arts Center is a relatively typical concert hall by international standards, installation of the Earth Harp (read: transformation of the CAC into a musical instrument) is expected to take three hours in total.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to sit inside of a musical instrument as it is being played, attending the Earth Harp Collective performance at the Community Arts Center on Friday is a good place to start.

For ticket information visit www.caclive.com.