LIB'ing Legends

LIB’ING Legends: William Close and the Earth Harp Collective

In a new series by Do LaB, we take a walk down the sonic side of memory lane with the musicians that have returned to Lightning in a Bottle time and again with the signature sounds that keep your dancing shoes dirty year after year. To hold onto those moments that make the soundtrack of our lives, we commemorate our love of music and showcase the on-stage stars who made them possible in a weekly interview series that we like to call LIBing Legends, and what better way to kick things off than with our longest standing legend… William Close and The Earth Harp Collective!

At some music festivals it’s commonplace to find that bass rules the day and nights belong to the electronic inspired milieu. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s always something of an oasis to happen upon a pure acoustic echo in the sahara of synthesized sounds. Among the many that have graced the stages of Lightning in a Bottle over the years, it’s possible that none have quite captured the imagination of fellow artists in this way as William Close, of William Close and the Earth Harp Collective. Along with inventing over 100 instruments and breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest playable stringed instrument (the Earth Harp), Close has been revered among other artists and celebrated by audiophiles at Lightning in a Bottle since 2006 for his rich, transcendent harmonies, heavenly crescendos and stirring symphony.

Perhaps the most miraculous part of hearing Close’ Earth Harp is the resounding spectacle of it all. Through vibration alone, the Earth Harp has this innate ability to transform any dance floor into a functioning musical instrument. The resulting effect is a supernal wave of consciousness displacing bliss. It’s a spellbinding experience that is somehow both divine and human at the same time.  

To learn more, we caught up with Close and he graciously took some time to tell us a bit about his current projects, past experience with LIB and the inspiration that keeps him going. Here’s what he had to say!

LIBing Legend: William Close  - First Year at LIB: 2006 - Total Years at LIB: 6 years

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If you could perform with one person or group on the 2016 LIB lineup, who would it be & why?

Emancipator. His music is what I would call symphonic electronic – very beautifully constructed electronica driven by his lush use of violin. How interesting would it be to add another facet to this. Like, some extra elements of tonal sophistication with the strings of the Earth Harp?!

Could you tell us about your first experience performing at LIB?

I proposed the Idea of bringing The Earth Harp and stringing it to one of the amazing trees on the festivals site. I set it up and felt immediately at home. I had brought the Earth Harp to many other festivals but never had I felt such a connection to the festival and the team that created it. I remember playing those first notes on the giant Earth Harp and it was almost like a call to prayer of sorts. The festival gathered as I pulled beautiful harmonics from the strings. I quickly realized that the festival was alive with people who were ready to listen and experience music deeply and were really open to innovative music. Since inventing the Earth Harp at the beginning of the millennium I have had the honor of presenting in many amazing places around the world. The Colosseum in Rome. The Grand Theater in Shanghai, I just strung it to the top of a Sky Scraper in Singapore and will be at The Kennedy Center with it again for a month this spring!

It has been an amazing journey and it always leads me back to my amazing Family at LIB. This is one of my favorite groups of people to play for. They’re really special to me, so I always try and present something new and something that I create specifically for LIB.

What do you think makes LIB different from other festivals?

LIB shines and stands out in so many ways… being that I have a penchant for architecture and come from a design background I have to say the festival designs created by Josh Fleming and his team are over the top cool! The stages and architectural structures are total art pieces and completely unique to LIB. Then I have to say the way Dede Flemming and his team run the show with such calm elegance. There is never any show of stress and everyone is so welcoming. And Jesse Flemming heads up the music curating that brings in totally unique, exciting, beautiful, powerful music that really resonates with us. Then there are all the workshops and speakers, and all the amazing environments created by artists in the community. The whole experience really is like something out of a dream. It’s the perfect place for a guy that seeks to create, witness or be a part of something new.

Also, after last years (2015) LIB we were specifically tuned into the spirit of collaboration, and many new projects have come of it. We have tracks coming out this year that have been recorded with David Starfire, live performances and gorgeous tracks with Sorne, and an epic single with Beats Antique. Also Random Rab and I are in the planning stages for a long overdue collaboration. Another interesting collaboration of sorts happened last year with celebrated (former Disney animator) artist Dave Zaboski who actively used our set for some inspiring on-the-spot live sketches.

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Where can we most likely find you at LIB when you’re not performing on stage?

I love the music! I am often on the side of the stage or out front to listen and experience what is often new music. Like many at LIB I am also a deep listener. As I have developed the Earth Harp and my other instruments I have really learned to listen to and understand the power of harmonics and vibration in general. I often find a lot of the artist are creating music with this in mind and every year I seek out the music that is really exploring the powerful science of musical vibration… Then again, I have to say I love to shop at LIB! There is some totally great stuff that you can’t get anywhere else so I may be found browsing shops too.

Describe LIB in three words or less.

I love the way everyone is at LIB. I have found the typical person at the festival is Happy, Smart, Open-minded and loves to have fun. They also usually love music and art!

What are you currently working on?

Over the past year I have been exploring pushing the Earth Harp concept to a new level. I have been creating a series of new Earth Harp tracks that truly convey the power of this amazing instrument. Imagine an orchestra of Earth Harps! These tracks use up to 15 Earth Harps at once. The instrument can be as high pitched or as low and bassy as needed. I have written and arranged lines for Earth Harps with strings ranging from 10 ft to 100ft in length.

The new tracks are created with a symphony of Earth Harps. Last year at LIB we debuted a new version of Requiem for a Dream. Here is a track I created using all Earth Harps with a tiny bit of violin and some awesome beats and bass. It’s the first in a series of tracks I will start sharing over the next few months.  

I am also really excited about the new Skyscraper tour in development. After the success of the recent LA skyscraper concert in which I strung the Earth Harp from the stage 700 ft straight up to the top of a historic building downtown we’ve set out to build a national tour that allows me to string and play skyscrapers in the great cities around the country. With all the upcoming musical adventures I do hope that my path continues to bring me to LIB. It truly feels like home and that I’m playing for family!




by: Graham Berry