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Fire Music: the Pyrophone

In Rubens' tube fire is used to make sound visible. Flames aren't just affected by sound, they can be used to make sound too. A pyrophone is a flame organ that uses small explosions or combustion to generate musical notes.

A "normal" organ uses air blown across large cylindrical pipes to start the air columns vibrating and so create sounds, just as blowing across the top of a glass bottle creates a note. For some people that's not exciting enough though. A pyrophone usually involves connecting a supply of gas to each pipe. A burst of flame in the bottom of a pipe is used to set the air vibrating and create each note.

To see and hear a pyrophone in action, watch this video [EXTERNAL].

The idea of making music with flames might seem pretty steampunk, but it's been around a while. The German composer Wendelin Weissheimer was playing a Pyrophone in the late 19th century.