Listen to the Mystical Music Box Version of Haddaway's 'What Is Love' - Atlas Obscura
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Listen to the Mystical Music Box Version of Haddaway’s ‘What Is Love’

This paper-tape music box puts a new spin on the classic dance number.

When you twist the crank of a music box, you expect to hear the notes of classical masterpieces, like Beethoven’s “Für Elise” or “Bach’s Minuet in G.” But this customized paper-tape hand crank music box transforms a different kind of musical classic: Haddaway’s iconic 1992 dance number, “What is Love.”

There is something haunting about the notes produced by music boxes. The pingy echo gives a whole new airy sound to the unforgettable lyrics: “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more.”

There are many do-it-yourself kits to assemble a music box. To add a dance club hit, you can make your own arrangements by punching holes into the long strips of paper that match up with teeth on a metal comb, plucking out notes of the song. 

Paper-pulling music boxes can get quite elaborate. A music box maker group called Wintergatan, for example, has created automatic paper-tape music boxes with various gears and Lego building blocks. Such inventors are pushing the boundaries of the 18th-century musical contraption. 

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