How It Works

Pyrophones explained

German composer Wendelin Weissheimer playing a pyrophone

Pyrophones – also called fire or explosion organs – were a type of musical instrument first made in the late-19th century that used explosions to produce musical notes, allowing its player to create a very noisy composition.

The instrument was powered by propane gas, which was supplied to the base of a series of large glass resonant chambers and then combusted internally with a flame generator. The detonations caused by this process generated a large hydrogen flame that, channelled by the pipes, proceeded to create a specific tone within them. The sounds produced each varied slightly, depending on the diameter and height of the resonant chamber. The resultant combustion gases were then expelled into the atmosphere via the top of the pipes.

Interestingly, while the original organ-shaped pyrophones are no longer created, musical instrument enthusiasts today have modified the early designs to work on a smaller scale and with better efficiency. This means custom pyrophones are capable of being transported quite easily and played with greater finesse thanks to their resonant chambers being cooled by liquid nitrogen in between notes.