In 1986, Stephen Hobley was a kid in England, watching a television broadcast of a concert featuring electronic musician Jean Michel Jarre. What captivated Hobley was the laser harp — an instrument with bands of light instead of strings — that Jarre played. “I thought, that’s the coolest darn thing I’ve ever seen,” says Hobley, who is now a professional photographer living in Indianapolis.
The idea of making such an instrument became a preoccupation of Hobley’s. “It’s always something I’ve played around with in my mind,” he says. Eventually, he became involved with Doug Arnholter of the Broad Ripple Art and Design Gallery. Arnholter told Hobley about a concept he’s been working on dealing with music, light and interactivity. It was the spur Hobley needed to finally see if he could make a laser harp of his own.
After about four months of concentrated effort, Hobley arrived at his “eureka!” moment. “It actually works — and it works well.”
The story took another turn when Hobley posted a video of himself playing the harp on YouTube for his brother and a few friends back in England. So far over 75,000 people have checked him out. “I think the secret of getting noticed on YouTube is having a really interesting middle frame,” Hobley says. “You’ve got to have something really cool in the middle.”
Having satisfied his curiosity about the laser harp, Hobley would like to try his hand at other instruments. He’s thinking through a way to build a digital theramin and, after that, might see about adding light to a hang drum, a Swiss derivation of the steel drum. To find out more about Hobley’s work, visit www.stephenhobley.com.