It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love a great xylophone solo. There’s just something about the instrument’s wavering jingle and playful percussive strikes that speaks the words “fun in the sun.” Or, apparently, fun in the forest, as the below ball-activated xylophone from Japan demonstrates so beautifully.
The video of the forest ‘phone is from 2011, and went viral when YouTube user, sakura4250, posted it. As of this writing, it’s garnered more than 16 million views. Despite the passage of just about a decade, it is still wowing people. In fact, it’s just now going viral again on Twitter (podcaster Scott Kerr recently posted it), and is already up to 3.7 million views on that platform.
It’s unsurprising the super-long xylophone has remained an endlessly appealing internet treat. Not only does the lengthy instrument, originally located in the Kyushu forest, play its song flawlessly, but the video was meant to go viral; the mega Japanese mobile-service provider, NTT Docomo, was behind the video, which, if you make it to the end, you’ll see was a commercial for a new (now very old) phone.
Regardless of the phone ad aspect, the xylophone itself is, or rather was, astounding. It took a production crew four days to build the instrument, which a dropping wooden ball plays note by note. In this video, the xylophone plays “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Johann Sebastian Bach. The German composer created the piece in the 18th century, and it’s so delightful people often play it at weddings.
Aside from the beautiful sounds, the instrument itself is a bit of an engineering marvel. It’s unclear how long the xylophone spans, but it’s able to play the whole Bach song. (Extrapolating out, assuming the ball’s traveling at .5 feet/second, would make it about 90 feet long; that’s a total guess though.) It’s also a kind of Rube Goldberg machine, with the main dropping ball initiating other, smaller dropping balls to play the more rapid notes in the song.
Unfortunately, we can only imagine NTT Docomo has dismantled the instrument. But the takeaway still stands: xylophone solos are totally boss and there should be more of them. Also, it’d be great to see more people safely attending concerts at natural venues. After all, if a wooden ball plays Bach in the forest, but nobody’s around to hear it, did it really make any music at all?