Five Surprising Soloists

There are many unfamiliar instruments in the world - from the touch-less theremin to the water-based Hydrolauphone. With many becoming forgotten or disregarded over time, here are five composers who turn the spotlight on some very unusual instruments.

Poème Symphonique For 100 Metronomes, György Ligeti

In 1962, after years of unrecognised dedication in the practice room, the metronome was finally given its chance to shine.

Ligeti gave one hundred metronomes the freedom to tick without human intervention until they slowed and eventually stopped. Audiences gathered to be immersed in the all-encompassing tick of 100 metronomes that will no doubt continue to haunt musicians for years to come.

Concerto for Jews Harp, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger

Thought to be one of the oldest instruments in the world, the Jews harp has wandered through life largely unnoticed.

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger saw the Jews harp's charm and wrote three double concertos for Jews harp and Mandora between 1769 and 1771 when demand for unusual instruments was high in the Emperor's palace.

Concerto for triangle, Mike Hannickel

Invented in 16th century England, the triangle is often considered to be an instrument which is forced into the hands of children to keep them busy during music class. Hannickel successfully embodies the spirit of this instrument, bringing us back to the carefree days of childhood music education.

A Grand Grand Overture, Malcolm Arnold

In 1956, Malcolm Arnold wrote a musical parody of the late 19th-century concert overture.

Not only does A Grand Grand Overture feature three solo vacuums, but it also includes several high profile positions for floor polisher and rifle. In a bizarre turn of events, all floor-cleaning devices are viciously assassinated live on stage by the rifle-players in an apparent fit of jealousy.

Piano piece for David Tudor #1, La Monte Young

The piano is no stranger to the concert hall and many composers feature the piano heavily in their work. La Monte Young, however, treats the piano as more of a pet, instructing the performer to "Bring a bale of hay and a bucket of water onto the stage for the piano to eat and drink.". The instructions continue, this time giving more room for interpretation:

"The performer may then feed the piano or leave it to eat by itself. If the former, the piece is over after the piano has been fed. If the latter, it is over after the piano eats or decides not to".