Providence International Arts Festival

Pulling on the World’s Harp Strings

See the Superman Building transform into a giant harp

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A man with a giant harp. With that description, it’s not hard to dismiss William Close as a hippie, which is what America’s Got Talent judges did in 2012 before they heard him play and all three sent him straight to Vegas. The Earth Harp, created by Close in 1999, is far more than the largest string instrument ever invented. It’s a sculpture, it’s architecture and it’s an experiment in sound design that has traveled all over the world.

So how big is this harp? It depends. Close invented the Earth Harp by mounting 1,000-foot-long strings on one side of a valley and the other, turning the valley into an enormous harp. Since then he’s installed the Harp on the Coliseum in Rome, from the top of the Seattle Space Needle and on June 13 he will come to Providence and mount his strings to our iconic Superman Building.

The base of Close's harp sits on the stage with him while the strings go out anywhere from 100 to 1,000 feet, attaching to whatever architecture, concert hall or natural landmark he chooses. Then, wearing gloves doused in a sticky dust called violin rosin, he slides his hands up and down the strings to create a cello-like sound that’s different in each new place. What will the Earth Harp sound like in Providence? We'll just have to wait and see. June 13. Kennedy Plaza, 111 Westminster Street, Providence. http://first-works.org/