Some artwork is meant to be seen, while other pieces should be heard.
Sound sculptures use natural elements to produce melodic (and often unsettling) sounds, such as galvanized pipes used for the Singing Ringing Tree in Burnley that create musical notes on windy days.
Sound sculpture art requires both eyes and ears. This form of expression includes structures that produce disturbing eerie sounds when the wind blows past them as well as those activated by visitors’ movements.
There are numerous examples of sound sculptures worldwide, but some stand out more than others. One such work, known as The Singing Ringing Tree in Burnley, Lancashire, stands out with its use of galvanized steel pipes which produce unsettling tones when passed through by wind currents. The Singing Ringing Tree’s presence enhances the aesthetic of its surrounding area and has made Burnley even more beautiful.
Other examples of sound sculptures include Aeolus Wind Pavilion, which consists of 310 stainless steel tubes that extend into a double-curved arch and which visitors can enter for an audial experience. When wind blows, vibrations from wind pass through these tubes into receivers that project them down through the arch into visitor below; making this sculpture popular enough to become its own tourist attraction!
One of the best-known examples of sound art is A Sound Garden, installed at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration campus in Seattle in the early 1980s. This structure features 12 steel towers resembling receptors or cell phone towers; inside these towers are organ pipes of different lengths that produce low tones when exposed to wind movement, creating an eerie yet beautiful soundscape.
Nikola Basic created and installed his Sea Organ sound art sculpture along the coast of Croatia in 2006. The 230-foot-long Sea Organ features 35 pipes that emit various sounds when moved by waves or air pressure, making this installation an unforgettable experience for anyone interested in exploring nature through sound art.
Soundgarden was named for a wind-channeling pipe sculpture called A Sound Garden in Seattle. Frontman Chris Cornell and guitarist Kim Thayil developed an excellent dynamic, with Cornell’s powerful wails colliding against Thayil’s subtle yet rhythmic riffs to give Soundgarden its distinct character that was neither mainstream nor underground.
Singing Ringing Tree
The Singing Ringing Tree, standing three meters, is a musical sculpture designed to look like a tree situated on the Pennine mountain range overlooking Burnley, England. Comprised of galvanized steel pipes that sound when struck by wind currents, its sound reminiscent of an aeolian harp is produced depending on length and positioning of pipe.
Tonkin Liu architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu completed this sculpture in 2006. Located on Crown Point on the moors above Burnley, it once served as a re-diffusion transmission station that included rundown brick buildings as well as dismantled and recycled telegraph lines that became part of this unique artwork.
Wind passing through pipes creates a low and soothing hum that can be heard up to 30 miles away, creating the Singing Ringing Tree; an artistic soundscape and source of great inspiration in poetry and song writing. Resonating tones created by pipes create a beautiful yet haunting melody.
Singing Ringing Tree has long been recognized as an extraordinary piece of public art and it has quickly become one of the main draws to Burnley town center. Tourists make special trips just to listen to its melody ring out!
In addition to producing a soft hum, the Singing Ringing Tree produces several melodies. It can create anything from an aeolian harp sound to organ tones depending on its pipes’ arrangement and wind direction. It is one of four sculptures known as Panopticons located around Pendle, Blackburn and Rossendale – making for an impressive show!
If you’re curious to understand how the Singing Ringing Tree operates, YouTube provides some wonderful videos. Unfortunately, not many show its entirety; many feature wind noise on microphones or inane library music being played over sounds from sculpture.
Forty Part Motetby Janet Cardiff
Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet sound installation at Richmond Chapel in Penzance marks an innovative 21st-century interpretation of Thomas Tallis’ 16th-century choral piece Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui by recording forty singing voices from Salisbury Cathedral Choir for Thomas Tallis’ 16th-century choral piece Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui choral piece Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui by reconfiguring them into eight groups of five voices each group comprising bass baritone, tenor tenor alto soprano so visitors freely pass through this ring of speakers hearing each individual voice as well as hearing their overall symphony composition by Janet Cardiff.
Once inside, one can hear an 8 minute long piece of polyphonic music performed by members of Salisbury Cathedral Choir. A circle shaped of 40 speakers on basic metal stands surrounds this immersive installation that portrays forty voices coming together to form one harmonious voice; Cardiff’s creation shows us this beauty which surpasses any solo performance.
Forty Part Motet’s transcendent soundscape offers us an opportunity to step back from today’s hectic lifestyles and take a pause with its soothing voices harmonising harmoniously in this meditative space, helping audiences recognize synchronicity and harmony that exist throughout our daily lives.
At a time of increased disconnection, Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet offers us an inspiring reminder of the power of collaboration and community. Its symphony of 40 unique voices unifies audiences to create an experience of spiritual harmony within our local communities as well as across society – an embodiment of Renaissance values: cooperation and the beauty of unity.
Sound sculptures utilize various technologies to draw viewers in. This may include sensors, voice activation or pressure pads to generate sounds; artists use glass, metal and wood materials in their creations; some may allow viewers to touch or move parts of the sculpture; while others have pre-programmed sequences that activate when someone approaches.
Janet Cardiff created the Forty Part Motet sound sculpture using forty distinct recorded voices played back through forty speakers arranged in a circle around a room, so viewers could hear each voice individually and connect with them directly. Her work was displayed at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum in Denmark in 2001.
Bentham was an English philosopher who coined the disciplinary concept known as the panopticon. This concept involves placing a central observation tower within a circle of prison cells so a guard in said tower can see all cells while prisoners cannot view said tower directly. According to Bentham’s theory, constant surveillance would reform morals, maintain health, and revitalize industry.
Michel Foucault extended Bentham’s concept by asserting that the principle of the panopticon could be applied in various areas of life. He explained that people tend to internalize norms and institutions that exist in society – this means drivers adhere to traffic laws while workers comply with company rules without necessarily knowing they’re being monitored by police or any other governing entity.
Foucault believed that art reflected similar principles. If a sculpture reminded the audience of something they have experienced personally, they will more readily conform to that image – for instance if made out of wood they might associate it with nature and sound sculptures tend to depict these themes more prominently than other types.
The Singing Ringing Tree and Halo were designed as part of the Panopticons project in East Lancashire, England. A separate sculpture known as The Atom is located near Wycoller Country Park where industrialized moors mix seamlessly with the English countryside.