Hand Music: No Manual Needed

Robert Wilson's hands i i

hide captionVideos of Robert Wilson's hand music are popular on the Internet. Click enlarge to see the man behind the hands.

R.A. Wilson
Robert Wilson's hands

Videos of Robert Wilson's hand music are popular on the Internet.

R.A. Wilson

You've got to hand it to Robert Wilson. The Silicon Valley software engineer can draw a crowd just by squeezing his palms together and making music. And videos of his handiwork are attracting scores of admirers on the Internet.

From "Hail to the Chief" to the "William Tell Overture," Wilson can make performing popular tunes sound easy. But he says "manualism" is actually pretty difficult to do well.

It's something akin to shaking your own hand.

"The idea is to capture an air pocket in between your palms," he explains to Renee Montagne.

Wilson is part of a long tradition of people who have transformed their bodies into musical instruments.

For more 50 years, the Mills Brothers made some pretty convincing trumpet and trombone sounds by vibrating their lips.

In the 1970s, jazz musician and famed whistler Ron McCroby played what he called the "puccolo," which he described as a cross between a piccolo and a pucker.

Not to mention hip-hop's the Fat Boys, who played the "human beat box." And don’t worry, we didn't forget the reigning king of anatomical instrumentation, Bobby McFerrin.

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