The creative impulse drives musicians and instrument makers to make astounding innovations. The modern grand piano that fills a concert hall with its sound grew step by step from Cristofori’s diminutive fortepiano. Schubert, with his more than six-hundred songs, invented an entire musical genre. In Java, gamelan makers create instruments tuned to their own personal musical scales. And Arthur Ferris confounded all expectation by cross-pollinating harps and violins to make a new hybrid instrument.
Innovation in music continues. Yamaha and artist Toshio Iwai have collaborated on the Tenori-on, a new digital musical instrument for the 21st century. Its LED display allows everyone to play music intuitively, creating a "visible music" interface. Use the Tenori-on to assemble a composition——layer on new sounds for greater depth or keep it simple. You can make new music!
Arthur Ferris—Instrument Maker of the Angels
Arthur Ferris was a self-taught musical innovator who credited the angels with guiding his work. Born in Wisconsin in 1872, Ferris moved east with his Bertha, taking work as a carpenter and gardener in Flanders, New Jersey. He made his first violin in 1913 and in 1924 has his first religious vision. That same year he was committed to the Hudson River State Hospital, a facility for the mentally ill, where he remained for almost 16 months. From his release up until his death in the 1940s, Ferris produced dozens of instruments which he named “violinettes,” “loot=harps,” and “angel harps.”
Ferris and his wife assembled an orchestra of friends who learned to play the distinctive instruments and appeared with Ferris in concerts in several eastern towns. In 1938, the orchestra was heard from coast to coast on a nation-wide radio program and his instruments even appeared in Ripley’s “Believe It or Not!”
Ferris wrote extensively filling pages of letters, journals and even the interior of his instruments with his prophecies.
Although truly an innovative instrument maker, Ferris was first and foremost a simple man who saw his instruments as a way to communicate his vision of eternity.