What’s That Sound: Yaybahar

by Beth Dolinar, Luminari Coordinator

In each issue of LUMOS!, we offer a regular series about the unique and unusual (and sometimes downright strange) instruments we’ve never heard. And since we can’t really understand an instrument until we’ve heard it being played, we’ll offer links to sites where you can hear and see a performance.

And so we offer our sixth in a series of unusual instruments: YAYBAHAR

As scientists continue to unravel the mysteries of the universe, they are learning some strange and wonderful things about what it’s like “out there.” For example, they have begun to record some of the sounds of outer space.

Have you heard them, these sounds that bounce off and between planets and their moons? They sound much like what we’ve been told in all those space-alien movies: eerie, otherworldly, warped.

Those adjectives can be used to describe the “music” produced by the yaybahar, and I used the quotes because even the inventor of the instrument isn’t quite sure it’s really music.

The yaybahar was invented in 2009 by Gorkem Sen, who is based in Istanbul. His instrument uses drums, coiled springs and only two strings to create the otherworldly sound.

Two framed drums are connected to a long spring, which in turn is connected to a tall neck with two strings. As the strings are plucked or bowed, the vibrations travel along the coil to the drums. The sound is produced as the vibrations move back and forth along the coiled spring.

Mr. Sen has said he would like the yaybahar to be as common as the violin or the cello. But considering the instrument takes up all the space in a room, it’s unlikely we will see a yaybahar section on the symphony stage anytime soon.

And that’s a shame. This is one weird and beautiful instrument. Listen for yourself.