It looks like a cross between a UFO and a wok. Its name – the hang – apparently derives from a wordplay on the Bernese dialect for "pfanne" (pan); it also means "sound" in Hungarian. A YouTube video of Manu Delago, its chief pioneer and exponent, playing this weird yet enchanting new instrument impressed Björk so much that she invited him to join the line-up on her Biophilia tour. And now, between tour dates, the young Austrian composer and percussionist is set to wok the London Symphony Orchestra, giving the UK premiere of his Concertino Grosso, the first-ever piece for hang and string orchestra, in the LSO's UBS Soundscapes series.
Invented by Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer of PanArt in Berne, the hang is having its day: Delago reached No 30 on the YouTube music video chart and has clocked up well over 3.8m viewings. "It can create a wide variety of sounds, from harplike, gentle, melodic things to tabla-esque, rhythmic ones," Delago says. "It's very gentle and quiet. I think it has made me more sensitive as a composer, opening my ears, changing my approach to details of certain sonorities and textures. It was great to get these into my head and create new music for an instrument that hasn't existed before."
One way or another, this musical UFO seems set to take off for the stratosphere.
Manu Delago and Friends play 'Concertino Grosso', LSO St Luke's, London EC1 (020 7638 8891) 28 March