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Ethereal Swiss Instrument Like 'Water Over Bells'

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Ethereal Swiss Instrument Like 'Water Over Bells'

Ethereal Swiss Instrument Like 'Water Over Bells'

Ethereal Swiss Instrument Like 'Water Over Bells'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/11478158/11478159" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Listener and musician Randy Granger of Las Cruces, N.M., plays the Hang, an odd-shaped instrument created in Switzerland in the late 1990s. It looks and sounds alien.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Today's sound clip introduces us to a musical instrument of recent origin.

Mr. RANDY GRANGER (Musician): My name is Randy Granger. I live in Las Cruces, New Mexico. And I'm a musician. I play an unusual instrument called the Hang.

(Soundbite of Hang playing)

Mr. GRANGER: It's spelled H-A-N-G, but pronounced hung or hong. I would describe the sound of the Hang as a cross between the Jamaican steel drum, the African kalimba, maybe the harp, and a little bit like water over bells or maybe wind chimes all put together.

(Soundbite of Hang playing)

Mr. GRANGER: It's a beautiful sound. It's a melodic sound. It's a very ethereal-sounding instrument, which is fitting because it's shaped exactly like a small UFO or maybe two woks that are glued together. On top of the Hang, there are small dings that are tuned to certain scales and certain notes. In the very middle, there's a little - a dome that's also tuned to the low note. The bottom of the Hang is very smooth except for a sound porthole that's at the very bottom. And you can manipulate the sound of that porthole by bringing your knees or your legs closer together or further apart. You can also - when you play it vertically, you can strike the bottom of the Hang, the sound porthole, with the flat palm of your hand to produce a very low sound, a very om, om.

(Soundbite of Hang playing)

Mr. GRANGER: The Hang was developed in 1998 in Bern, Switzerland by a couple of researchers and musicians. I'm very lucky that I got to - whenever I did, I acted quickly and I'm glad that I did because now the only way that a person can get a Hang is by traveling to Bern, Switzerland. First, you have to make an appointment, and then you go to what's called the Hang House in Bern, Switzerland. You go and you talk to the reps and you talk to the manufacturers, and you kind of have to prove yourselves, you have to prove your worthiness, sort of like the Soup Nazi on "Seinfeld," only these are the Hang Nazis, although it's probably not very nice of me to call them that.

(Soundbite of Hang playing)

Mr. GRANGER: I've enjoyed the Hang. I think it's a very exotic instrument. It's a very tactile instrument. It reminds me of playing my mother's pots and pans when I would drag all her cooking utensils out and beat on them literally with spoons.

(Soundbite of Hang playing)

SIEGEL: Musician and listener Randy Granger of Las Cruces, New Mexico with his Hang.

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