What Is A Sound Sculpture?
The concept of a sound sculpture is actually quite simple, although it sounds super abstract. It’s not a sculpture shaped by sound, or even a sound that’s supposed to come off as a sculpture. Rather, it’s a sculpture that makes sounds. And in the case of these sound sculptures, the sounds are deep, mysterious, and revelatory.
Most sculptures are intended to be viewed by the eye. In the case of these beautiful installations, however, they’re meant to be experienced in different ways, namely through the sculptures interaction with the natural world.
Sonic Art Approaches “Music” In A Different Way
The beauty of “sonic art” as it’s called is that it harnesses natural forces to create beautiful sounds. Much like a windmill captures the wind to create energy, a sound sculpture creates melodic (and sometimes strange) sounds using the world around it.
Take the Singing Ringing Tree in Burnley, for example.
This piece of sonic art, located in Lancashire, England, is basically a massive structure made of windpipes. It’s three metres tall, and. made up of galvanized steel pipes of different lengths. The holes punched into the underside of the pipes catches the wind as it blows by, and creates a somewhat spooky sound on windy days.
Then there’s the Sound Garden in Seattle. This collection of 12 steel towers look like receptors or cell towers of some kind. Created in the early 1980s by sculptor Douglas Hollis, the construction of the towers is such that the organ pipes catch the wind and produce a haunting sound.
The neat thing about this one is that horizontal steel vanes at the top of the towers rotate the pipes. These make it so you can only hear the sculpture when there’s a strong wind blowing through, but the sound is both beautiful and strange.
In Croatia, there’s a sonic sculpture called the Sea Organ. This construction of 35 organ pipes in the coastal town of Zadar in Croatia uses the perpetual movement of both air and water to make a more high-pitched sound that the others. As you walk along the water, you can hear the musical notes filling the air with sound. An artist named Nikola Basic created the sculpture as part of a city-wide project to bring new life (and tourists) to the coast. It looks like it’s worked quite well.
How Does A Sound Sculpture Work?
The construction of these sound sculptures, also known as sonic art, is really cool. Musical sculptures like the ones featured above rely on the principals of vibration, amplitude, and frequency.
This type of art installation can be in either closed or open spaces. In the case of the pieces above, they all harness elements around them to create sound. Because of the time-based nature of the ‘musical’ production, an installation can encourage visitors to stay longer, and enjoy the progress of the sound production over time.
Most of the sound sculptures found outside harness things like wind and water. However, from inside, sound art can also employ digital media, like computer screens and audio, to interact with a visual component.
Often, the result is as eerie as it is beautiful.
If you’d like to research further, here are 11 sound art pieces which are centred around protest-minded installations.
- Related: What is the purpose of the “Mojave Megaphone”? Check out this weird installation in the Mojave Desert.