Musician plays ‘Interstellar’ theme on world’s first musical instrument played by flowing water

18 November 2020, 15:01

Musician plays ‘Interstellar’ theme on a hydraulophone
Musician plays ‘Interstellar’ theme on a hydraulophone. Picture: hydraulist/YouTube

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Concert attire for this performance? Swimwear only, please.

Meet the world’s first musical instrument that makes sound from water – the hydraulophone.

Outside Stanford University’s music department in California, US, students often gather to have a play on the 12-jet instrument, which is played by flowing water.

The hydraulophone, which sounds a bit like the lovechild of an organ and a flute, works like this, Spinditty explains: “In a hydraulophone, water is pumped into a curved, horizontal tube and spurts out of a series of small holes on the top of the tube.

“A sounding mechanism is positioned upstream of each hole. If a person places a finger over a hole, the water is directed past the associated sounding mechanism and diverted to another part of the instrument.”

Read more: Church organ playing Zimmer’s ‘Interstellar’ theme makes our world feel tiny >

James Hancock playing hydraulophone at CCRMA, Stanford University

Read more: The 13 weirdest musical instruments ever >

In the video above, James Hancock plays film legend Hans Zimmer’s otherworldly theme for Interstellar, making music by placing his fingers over the holes and redirecting the flowing water.

It’s supposedly pretty easy for anyone to play, but there are some truly virtuosic interpretations out there, including this duet on ‘House of the Rising Sun’.

Now, hear the Interstellar theme the way it was originally composed – on an epic church organ...

interstellar "First Step" Hans Zimmer soundtrack - church Organ / piano cover epic