Calgary Herald

Making music from art

America’s Got Talent finalist brings sculptural harp to Calgary


For an aspiring musician — he played guitar and liked to fool around on the spoons and whatever tin cans or hollow objects he could turn into a drum set — 10-year-old William Close had a second passion: Creating sculptures.

“I was soldering together pieces of metal,” he says, “and putting together sculptural pieces and that (passion) ended up sort of pushing me in the direction of art school.”

It was at the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 1990s where Close got the idea to merge his passion for music, sculpture and architectu­re into a single pursuit.

“For me, a natural thing was to create sculptures that made sound,” he says, “and that quite quickly turned into the interest in making them really nicely functionin­g instrument­s.

“But I was never really very interested in trying to recreate an existing instrument,” he adds. “I’ve always been interested in exploring and inventing and creating something new for the world. I’ve created over 100 unique instrument­s.

“Each one has its own character,” he says, “its own sound and I love that about it.”

One of those musical sculptures, the Earth Harp, is on display at the Calgary Stampede, where Close is performing on the largest string instrument in the world.

Depending on the venue — Close has performed the Earth Harp everywhere from on the side of a mountain to a Fox TV studio (during the 2012 America’s Got Talent series) to the Coliseum in Rome — the strings can extend as much as 300 metres, out over the audience, where they are attached to the theatre or mountain he’s performing in, transformi­ng the venue itself into a musical instrument — an architectu­re you can hear as much as see.

In a way, Close turns every performanc­e into an art installati­on.

“Absolutely,” he says. “Every place is different. Every place sounds different. Here in Calgary, the installati­on here, it’s very beautiful sounding, very reverberan­t, in a big, big hall.”

As far as exploring the relationsh­ip between architectu­re and music, Close says some pretty legendary architects have long made the connection.

“(It makes me think of) that classic Frank Lloyd Wright quote,” he says. “Architectu­re is frozen music.

“Also,” he says, “we’re just creating these resonant spaces that are a lot about interactin­g with sound and acoustics so I’ve always been really interested in exploring and working in connection to architectu­re.”

Some of the other instrument­s Close has invented include The Aquatar, a four-stemmed guitar sculpture that includes a bass, guitar and sitar; and the Drumbrella, a drum kit sculpture with its own unique way of playing.

He’s also invented some wearable musical instrument­s, such as the Violin Jacket, which sounds great while blocking out a breeze.

His uniquely original sensibilit­y landed him a spot on America’s Got Talent during the 2012 season.

How does an art school multidisci­plinary artist who creates musical sculptures end up on a reality TV show, anyways?

“They contacted me,” he says. “They’re always looking for something interestin­g and cool.”

There, he introduced the world of television to the Earth Harp, when he transforme­d a television studio into an art installati­on.

If it sounds like kind of an odd fit, it doesn’t to Close.

“I knew about that show,” he says. “It’s one of the few sort of national TV shows or internatio­nal TV shows where they’re looking for things that don’t really fit into any box — so I liked that.”

He was a hit, receiving critical raves from judges Sharon Osbourne and Howard Stern. He finished third out of 10,000 entrants.

“I wish there were more shows like that,” he says, “because there’s all this interestin­g stuff going on in the world and they never really get seen, because they don’t fit into a specific category.”

 ?? NBC ?? Wiliam Close performs with his Earth Harp on America’s Got Talent.
NBC Wiliam Close performs with his Earth Harp on America’s Got Talent.

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