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Unusual Instruments:

CLAVIOLA - Only a handful of claviolas were manufactured by the Hohner musical instrument company in the late 1990s. This instrument is worn like an accordion, however instead of bellows, air is blown into a mouthpiece. The claviola has a vertical keyboard on the right, and a set of pitch pipes on the left. It sounds somewhat like a circus calliope or a clarinet. You can hear the claviola on several tracks; perhaps most clearly on "Dugong." You can see it in action about 10 seconds into this video.

CONTRABASSOON - Also known as the double bassoon or bass bassoon (though I find the latter to be a bit redundent), this isntrument serves as the lowest voice of the woodwind ensemble. The length of the tube is over 16 ft long, folded upon itself 4 times. You can hear the contrabassoon on the "Blobfish" performed by Doug Quint.

BASS HARMONICA - It's true, there exists a bass harmonica. It works more or less like any other harmonica, except for the fact that it sounds two octaves lower! Oh, and it weights about ten times as much (and costs ten times as much). It's made up of two bodies, hinged together; the upper deck typically tuned to a chromatic C# scale, the bottom deck tuned to a chromatic C scale. Also, the notes play on the blow only (no draw). Listen to David Harrington pretending to be a "Weddell Seal" on his bass harmonica.

LEMURbots - LEMUR or the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots was founded by Eric Singer in 2000. Among Singer's midi-triggered, robotic musical instruments are the guitarbot, the xylobot, and a wide variety of percussive modbods. You can hear the LEMURbots on "Humpback Anglerfish."

DAXOPHONE - Invented by Hans Reichel in the 1980s, this unique (homemade) instrument is played by bowing various thin wooden blades, which are attached at one end to a small box affixed with a contact microphone. The German word for badger is "Dachs." The daxophone is named for it's similarity in sound to the voice of a badger. Incidentally, the dachshund is a small dog bred to hunt badgers. You can hear Michael Hearst playing his daxophone on the "Honey Badger." You can see him in action on this video.

GLASS ARMONICA - This celestial-sounding instrument was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761. Consisting of a series of glass bowls attached to a spinning rod, the musician plays the instrument by pressing their moistened fingers to the edge of the rotating bowls, and creating friction. You can hear Cecelia Brauer play the glass armonica on "Glass Frog."

GLOCKENSPIEL - Like a small xylophone or marimba, the glockenspiel is 2 1/2 octaves of tuned metal bars, arranged like a keyboard. This instrument is most commonly found in marching bands. You can also hear it chiming away throughout "March Of The Unusual Creatures," as well as at the beginning of "Glass Frog."

STYLOPHONE - This small, hand-held synthesizer is operated by touching a miniature keyboard with a stylus. It was invented in the 1960s by Brian Jarvis. The original model stylophone went out of production in 1975, but not before more three million units were sold. In 2007, Brian Jarvis' grandson, Ben Jarvis, reintroduced a digital version of the instrument to the public. You can hear the stylophone as the main melody on "Chinese Giant Salamander." You can also see it in action in this video.

POLYPHONIA - This is one of the lesser-known orchestral harmonicas made by M. Hohner. The polyphonia has twelve chromatic notes laid out on the same row, making it rather difficult to play, especially if you're used to the regular harmonicas. Listen to Wade Schuman play the polyponia on "Solenodon."

THEREMIN - Invented in the 1920's by Russian scientist Leon Theremin, this is perhaps the only musical instrument you do not touch to play! Instead you wave your hands near two antennas-one for pitch, and one for volume. The eerie sound is often associated with horror film soundtracks or The Beach Boys "Good Vibration" (though, that's not technically a theremin Brian Wilson is playing). You can hear Michael playing the theremin clearly on "Elephant Shrew" and see him in action in this video.

TOY PIANO - The modern day version of the toy piano was invented in Philadelphia by a 17-year-old German immigrant named Albert Schoenhut (his version had metal plates struck to create sound, as opposed to fragile glass bars.) You can hear Margaret Leng Tan playing two different toy pianos on "Jesus Christ Lizard."

TUBAX - This extra-low saxophone was developed in 1999 by German instrument-maker Benedikt Eppelsheim. It has the same register as a contrabass saxophone but is much more compact and portable, thanks to the tubes being folded multiple times. You can hear Paul Cohen performing the Tubax on "Blobfish."

Guest musicians:

CECILIA BRAUER - glass armonic on "Glass Frog." More on Cecilia here.

PAUL COHEN - tubax on "Blobfish." More on Paul here.

ORAN ETKIN - clarinet on "March Of The Unusual Creatures." More on Oran here.

KRONOS QUARTET (David Harrington - violin, bass harmonica; John Sherba - violin, diatonic harmonica; Hank Dutt - viola, tremelo harmonica; Jeffrey Zeigler - cello, mini harmonica) on "Aye-Aye" and "Weddell Seal." More on Kronos Quartet here.

LEMURbots on "Humpback Anglerfish," "Dugong," and "Bilby." More on the LEMURbots here.

MARGARET LENG TAN - toy pianos on "Jesus Christ Lizard." More on Margaret here.

ANTHONY MASCORRO - trumpet on "Blue-Footed Booby." More on Anthony here.

THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET (Joel Forrester - piano, Phillip Johnston - soprano sax, Don Davis - alto sax, Michael Hashim - tenor sax, Dave Sewelson - baritone sax, David Hofstra - double bass, Richard Dworkin - drums) on "Tardigrade." More on the Micrscopic Septet here.

DOUG QUINT - contrabassoon on "Blobfish." More on Douglas here.

WADE SCHUMAN - polyphonia, various harmonicas, chopstick on "Solenodon." More on Wade and his band, Hazmat Modine, here.

CHRIS STROMQUIST - percussion on "March Of The Unusual Creatures." More on Chris here.

WEDDELL SEALS - yes, those are the actual the sounds of the Weddell seal on the "Weddell Seal" track, recorded with hyrdophones (underwater microphones) by Douglas Quin, Ph.D. More on Dr. Quin and Weddell seals here.

Of course, there's also the Songs For Unusual Creatures band:

ALLYSSA LAMB - vocals, keyboard, accordion. RON CASWELL - tuba. BEN HOLMES - trumpet. KRISTIN MUELLER - drums. MICHAEL HEARST - claviola, theremin, daxophone, stylophone, glockenspiel, keyboard, percussion, bass guitar, accordion. More about the band here.