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The Sharpsichord

09 Oct 2014

When listing the applications for stainless steel, few people would include "sound sculpture". Henry Dagg is well known in his field but perhaps less so to the general stainless steel world. A  striking example of a sound sculpture is the "Sharpsichord". It was originally commissioned by the English Folk Dance and Song Society for display in the garden of Cecil Sharp. Along with composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sharp was responsible for collecting folk songs in the oral tradition at the beginning of the 20th century.


Dagg's tribute to  Cecil Sharp, made mostly from grade 304 stainless steel, incorporates a cylinder with 11520 holes drilled into it. The player can insert pegs, each of which corresponds to a musical note. When turning the handle manually or by solar power the programmed tune is played by the pegs plucking 46 strings.


The original external location had to be scrapped due to the likelihood of vandalism and is now currently in Henry's workshop. A number of musicians have perfomed with the 10 foot tall instrument including Bjork. There is a possibility that it may be transported to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 


Dagg's latest commision for another stainless steel sound sculpture is at Rochester Independent College in Kent due for completion in 2015. It consists of a "suite of musical railings and gates" and will be 28 ft long by 12 ft tall.


The Sharpsichord was five years in the making and is a remarkable result of one man's dedication combined with the specific qualities of stainless steel.


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