Category Archives: Public art

America’s Best Classical Violinist Sucks At Busking

The Washington Post has been messing with people’s heads on the subway. As an ‘experiment’ they sent Joshua Bell underground to fiddle for spare change. According to the Post he played his violin well:

‘…it sobbed and laughed and sang — ecstatic, sorrowful, importuning, adoring, flirtatious, castigating, playful, romancing, merry, triumphal, sumptuous.’

Wow. Sounds pretty good. But the problem is busking is about the bottom line – and he only made $32 in 43 minutes. Not great.

But still a very interesting article.


Singing, Ringy, Tube Things

Everyone loves a good pan pipe session. But some love whole pipe thing more than others.

Arichitects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu are two such people.

Back in 2006 they made the Singing Ringing Tree, a structure made of pipes welded together that are played by the wind.

It sounds a bit like this: ‘Wooooooo’.

Tonkin & Liu aren’t the only people into welding pipes together.

Eila Hiltunen also banged together a bunch of pipes in her tribute to Sibelius back in 1967. The Sibelius monument in Helsinki also gets ‘played’ by the wind, although this wasn’t a core part of the original plan.

Here’s a video of Sibelius fans swarming all around it:

And the panpipe-public-art-preoccupation doesn’t stop there. Artist Luke Jerram brought his wind powered sound sculpture ‘Aeolus’ to Canary Warf last year.

Another interesting project by Jerram is his ‘Plant Orchestra’. It amplifies the sounds of plants which are usually too quiet to here.

‘Using specialist microphones water can be heard as it flows slowly up the stem of a plant. The sounds created during the day are different to those at night and they alter with the seasons of the year. If trees are suffering from drought, scientists can measure acoustic emissions that occur caused by cavitation and embolism within the plant. ‘

here’s his website about the piece:

Whose Sounds? Our Sounds…

I’ve already put up some stuff about protest sound in Egypt and London here

But I thought I’d add some extra snaps of the DIY mobile sound systems that were everywhere at the anti-cuts march in November:

This tricycle was used as the PA at the Occupy London camp i think. Pretty noisey with hefty bass. For a tricycle.

The sound of the cardboard vultures of austerity.

Bicycle trailer crusader.

Brompton beats.

Synthesizer Archeology

What happens when someone finds the world’s first synthesizer in a barn in France?

Been meaning to put this up for a while.

Nick Street’s film Oramics To Electronica.


Sonic Joker: Song Ming Ang

Song Ming Ang is about to leave London for Melbourne to take up a residency where amongst other things he’ll be collecting more jokes for Ah-Ha his jokes-with-an-aural-component archive:

A-Ha (English excerpts) from Song-Ming Ang on Vimeo.

Why don’t you write him a letter.

Nature Plays: Variable 4

Something for all the Max MSP heads. And people who like noisy days out in the country.

Variable 4 transforms these weather patterns into a living musical composition with the same unpredictability as the elements themselves. Using meteorological sensors connected to a custom software environment developed by the artists, the wild weather conditions of the Kent coastland act as composer, navigating through a map of 24 specifically written movements. Every aspect of the piece, from broad harmonic progressions down to individual notes and timbres, is influenced by changes in the environment: wind speed, rainfall, solar radiation, humidity, tropospheric variance, temperature, and more.

Linking together the sensor data and scored motifs is an array of algorithmic processes drawn from the natural world, modelling phenomena such as tree growth, swarm theory and evolutionary development. The resultant composition is performed over a 24 hour duration through a field of 8 speakers integrated into the landscape.”

Sounds amazing. It’s taking place on the Dungeness headland between midday May 22nd to midday May 23rd 2010 on the headland of Dungeness and it’s free to visit. Also expect to see some kind of installation from the people behind Variable 4 at a London gallery in the near future.

Bass Bins, Trinity Buoys and Art Historians

Just checked out Bill Fontana’s River Sounding installation at Somerset House and it was boss.

Great example of a sound installation working with architecture.

Bill Fontana lurks beneath


There’s speakers positioned here and there in underground passageways around the courtyard making drippy river sounds – and little alcoves with flickering video projections. Then when you penetrate the bizarre central underground passageway there is some serious river sound bass bin action! Ace.

It’s open 7 days a week and it is free.