Middlebury

Middlebury College Senior Hannah Waite Performs on the Laser Harp

April 21, 2011

Lasers Take the Place of Strings in this Unusual Instrument

The unique sights and sounds of a laser harp will be on display Monday, May 9th, at 8 pm, in Room 221 of the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College. Middlebury student Hannah Waite will talk about the laser harp she designed and built herself and will perform music she composed for the unusual instrument.

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“The laser harp is analogous to a normal harp, with lasers in the place of strings,” notes Waite, who is a double major in Physics and Music. “Rather than creating a note when a string is plucked, the laser harp sounds when a laser beam is interrupted.” The first laser harp was created in 1976 by an Australian inventor named Geoffrey Rose, and Waite is in a line of musicians who have since become intrigued by the instrument.

Waite has drawn upon her science background to build the circuits and work with the lasers. Also a gifted musician, she has created a number of original compositions which she will perform at this public event.

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The laser harp definitely has a “wow” factor—when people see it, they are struck by the unusual appearance and the almost mystical hand motions that conjure sound just by moving through the laser beams. There aren’t too many opportunities for professional laser harpists, but Waite’s dream is to “find a job that combines the satisfying analytical work of physics and my love and passion for music. Getting to work on a project that combined the two fields has opened my eyes to the many connections between them.”

 

The lecture/demonstration is sponsored by the Department of Music, and is free and open to the public.