Nikola Tesla is rightly regarded as one of the greatest scientific minds of all time. His pioneering work as an engineer, especially in the field of electricity and electromagnetism, mean his name is synonymous with invention and innovation.
However, one of the things Tesla is best known for these days is the Tesla coil, an electrical transformer circuit he used for experimentation. These high voltage, low current-producing devices eventually made their way into commercial products, but they’re now mostly used for entertainment purposes. Just like floppy disk drives and outdated technology they are capable of making sweet, sweet music.
Tesla Coils – Super Mario Bros.
The Super Mario Bros. theme is one of the most recognizable songs of all time. Seriously, anyone who has ever played even one of the games it has made an appearance on will know it as soon as they hear it. Which makes it the perfect tune to play using Tesla coils. The guy in the cage is there to demonstrate how he’s perfectly safe behind a layer of metal, though that doesn’t explain his terrible dance moves.
Tesla Coils – Dueling Banjos
Dueling Banjos from the movie Deliverance is a fast and intricate song, whatever instrument it’s played on. Which makes it all the more astonishing that it works well when played using Tesla coils. If you join halfway through then it’s difficult to latch on to what is being played, but once you know it’s Dueling Banjos it makes for a cracking cover version of a classic song.
Tesla Coils – 2001: A Space Odyssey
This is a medley of tunes played using Tesla coils, beginning with the opening song from 2001: A Space Odyssey, continuing on with Ghostbusters, and then ending with Mega Man. There are also a few other songs mixed in, but these are the three I instantly recognize. The dramatic backdrop with flags and a darkening sky helps set the mood for this medley.
Tesla Coils – The Imperial March
The Imperial March, otherwise known as Darth Vader’s Theme, is perhaps the iconic track from all of the Star Wars films. It’s certainly the one that geeks have latched on to in droves, recording versions on all manner of technology, both old and new. This may well be the oldest though, with Tesla coils having been invented in the 1890s. The guy swinging the fluorescent tubes looks like he could almost be as old as his instrument of choice.
Tesla Coils – House Of The Rising Sun
There seems to be something about House Of The Rising Sun that makes it the perfect song to cover using technology never originally intended as musical instruments. The Animals’ hit record already made our list of songs played on old tech hardware, and now it’s made this one too. It may not be a patch on the original, but it’s a damn fine effort nonetheless.
Tesla Coils – Poker Face
The short, jangly notes in Poker Face by Lady Gaga make it the perfect modern song to be played on Tesla coils. Or a single Tesla coil, more accurately. OK, so only the chorus is recognizable to all but the biggest Gaga fans, but even I, who has only ever heard this song on the radio (honestly), know instantly what it is. Amazingly the Tesla coil looks better than Lady Gaga does. Or is that a little harsh?
Tesla Coils – Pirates Of The Caribbean
Love or hate Pirates Of The Caribbean and Captain Jack Sparrow, the theme tune is pretty memorable. It conjures up images of wooden vessels, flagons of rum, and parrots sitting on shoulders. Even when played on a single Tesla coil. What’s most notable about this video however is the choice of location. I’m pretty sure it’s not advised to set a Tesla coil going in a garage full of junk. Some of which is clearly flammable.
Tesla Coils – Nyan Cat!
Ah, Nyan Cat! How we’ve missed you so. This meme is well and truly dead by now, although I still like the occasional blast of ‘Non-Stop Nyan Cat!‘ I’ve heard this song, which is both addictive and annoying in equal measure, played on many different instruments. But Tesla coils are by the most impressive of the lot. It doesn’t get better than this.
Tesla Coils – Zelda Theme
The same guy we have already seen waving those fluorescent tubes around his head is back, this time wearing what looks like an upside-down dustbin on his head. I guess all that matters is it’s made from metal. But still. The song is the theme tune to Zelda, another long-running videogame series. This clip is made more awesome than it otherwise would be by him setting fire to balloons. A warning not to play with Tesla coils without first knowing the risks involved, I guess.
Tesla Coils – Doctor Who
As is becoming something of a tradition with these video rundowns, I’ve saved the best until last. This is the Doctor Who theme tune being played not only using two Tesla coils working in unison, but also by a guy either brave or stupid enough to stand in between them. Sure, he’s wearing what looks like a chainmail suit but even that wouldn’t be enough to persuade me this is safe. Unless he’s Doctor Who himself and will regenerate if anything were to actually go wrong.
There is something insanely cool about Tesla coils, especially when they’re being used to create music, and especially if some crazy fool is standing in between two of them directing operations. This isn’t an activity I’d recommend anyone else do though. Tesla coils can be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands.
What do you think of Tesla coils, whether they’re being used as musical instruments or not? If you have seen any more videos featuring Tesla coils then feel free to drop a link in the comments section below. I never tire of seeing these incredible lightning displays.
Image Credit: Steve Beger