The Sharpsichord - A Giant, Solar-Powered Pin-Barrel Harp

What happens when you give a quirky inventor $126k to invent an instrument? This...

Henry Dagg is a sculptor who was commission by the English Folk Dance & Song Society for the hefty sum of £56,000 to invent three art installations relating to music and sound. Not one to be limited by such a pittance of a budget, Henry threw some of his own money into the mix to pump the budget up to £90,000 (roughly $126,000 USD at today's exchange rate).

The Sharpsichord

With all that money, and all of his creativity, Henry Dagg went to work, and 5 years later he came up with The Sharpsichord. They had asked him for 3 different pieces, but Henry did his own thing.


Ultimately, Henry ended up buying them out so that this creation was all his, instead of having to hand it over to the English Folk Dance & Song Society. Whether he did that of his own accord or not is unknown, since he did break the rules of the agreement.

This isn't your typical automatic acoustic harp, however. For starters, it's powered by the sun. It's perfect to add some ambience to a hot sunny day, but not ideal for the rainy days that England is known for.

There are 11,520 holes in the spinning cylinder that rotates near a set of strings. The musician can place little pins in those holes, depending on what songs and sounds they want to make. Those sounds are then picked up by the giant horns which amplify the music, with no need for additional speakers since it's all acoustic.

What Does the Sharpsichord Sound Like?

We've previously featured Henry Dagg's Sharpsichord on our extensive list of weird instruments, but this one definitely deserves a second look all to itself, especially since you're probably dying to hear what it sounds like.

Don't worry, you won't have to sell your house to raise the money to build one yourself, because we've got you covered.

Here's a video of Henry Dagg and Chris Wood putting together a rendition of The Long and Winding Road on a near-finished version of the Sharpsichord, also known as a pin-barrel harp.

It's truly impressive how something can be so futuristic, yet so archiac at the same time, as pointed out by a commenter on Youtube.

Encourage Inventors

If you had access to this pin-barrel harp for a few days, and could spend the time to dial in any song you want, what would you choose? Would you come up with an original piece for it, or try to re-create something that people would recognize?

Music is obviously art, and a very creative endeavor at that, but it's also great to see somebody who takes that creativity to the next level. It might not be the most beautiful or peaceful sound you'll ever hear, but there's something special about the level of care and downright obsession that goes into building something so monumentally complex and physically huge like that, and it's certainly something that should be encouraged for future generations.

Who knows what some kid watching this video might end up inventing?