Before synthesisers, horror and sci-fi film-makers had to employ all kinds of weird instruments to achieve those creepy musical scores. One such instrument is the waterphone, an atonal inharmonic percussion instrument consisting of a hollow metal water filled bowl, surrounded by metal rods of differing sizes. The instrument can be hit or bowed, with the movement of the water inside effecting the tone of the sound produced. Giving an over-all ethereal and creepy sound, perfect for horror movie and sci-fi soundtracks.
The waterphone was invented by A man called Richard Waters in the 1960s, and was influenced by a Tibetan drum he came across, and a nail violin. Aside from its use in movie soundtracks, it has become a popular instrument among artists as diverse as classic music performers, to Aerosmith and Tom Waits.
The waterphone has featured on the soundtrack of a number of well known and successful movies over the years. Movies that have utilised the weird sound of the waterphone are Poltergeist (1982), the original Swedish version of Let The Right One In (2008), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), the remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978), The Matrix (1999), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), The Matrix (1999), The Spirit (2008), Powder (1995) and Mystery Men (1999).
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Up until his death in 2013, Richard Waters was still making, tuning and signing off personally each of his hand-made waterphones. He refined and constantly adjusted his invention over the years. There are a number of imitators making the instrument, but the ultimate prize among collectors and players of the waterphone is one made by the man himself, which now sell for thousands of dollars.