Sound Sculpture

singing-ringing-tree-12.jpg Sound Sculpture is a form of art in which the artist creates a 3-Dimensional form that produces sound. Usually these works of art can be found hidden with cities or standing out among country landscapes. They can produce varying sounds that can be described as harmonic with the natural ambience or discordant to bring attention to it. Also varying from size they can range from really tall to simple, short structures installed anywhere. Sound sculpture can be inspired from nature, usually incorporating materials to reflect or amplify the environment around them. Some of these installations can attract large crowds given that they’re very interesting to view and listen to as they’re mostly constructed of pipes and other sound making materials. Wherever these sculptures may lie, they certainly attract attention and prove to be entertaining objects all over the world.

5196324_orig.jpgThe Inspiration

Sound sculpture is a specific form of sound art, which is a more broad term to describe an artist employing the use of sound as a medium. The beginnings of this style of art is unknown but one could say it dates back to as early as the renaissance or enlightenment periods. This form of art should not be confused with regular instruments as they are played by a human and not automated. Sculptures were traditionally used to commemorate places, events or people and are usually site specific thus making automated instruments incomparable to sculptures. However they can certainly be traced to the inspiration of these artists to make sound sculptures and should not be ruled out of the origins of sound sculpture. A great example of an automated instrument is the self playing piano. As I said before it is not quite a sculpture, but it does play by itself which is the leading inspiration. Piano's like these would read a sheet of music which in turn would cause the keys of the piano to move and play as if someone were playing. Typically in earlier times it would be a convenience to those who wouldn't know how to play piano because they would simply give it a sheet of music to play and would do so. This invention relied however on mechanical inventions to play the music, meaning it was not played by a natural force. This would be a key difference between sound sculpture and sound art. The use of sound employed as a medium in traditional art would be experimented with in the twentieth century by the Dadaists. This movement was on the forefront of modernism in its day and often experimented with new mediums. Specifically an artist named Hugo Ball would smash objects together to create sound as an expression of traditional art or even sing as an expression of art outside of music. Many critics would put this down because it was outside of the norm and did not represent the traditional foundations of art to any extent. Sound coming from sculptures would not be experimented with again until later during the 1980's which would bring about new ideas and a different perspective on art.




The Origins

The first ever recorded invention of a sculpture that produces sound was a wind chime. Wind chimes are played whenever the wind blows and make inharmonious sound from metals tubes hitting each other. The first wind chime was created as early as 1100 BCE in modern day China. The bells would be created by skilled metal workers whore start by making a bell like object without the clapper inside of it which would be called a yong-zhong. For the Chinese these bells would later be perfected and similar to todays wind chimes which would be used in religious ceremonies. Often times the chimes would be hung from the ceiling of a shrine or in the corners of a pagoda to ward off evil spirits, birds and even bring good luck to the inhabitant. Similarly, these uses for chimes would be employed in other nations such as India, Japan and Rome.

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Singing Ringing Tree

The Singing Ringing Tree is a sculptural representation of a tree on a hill located in Lancashire, England. This structure was erected by two architects who were participating in a local renaissance of the borough. The sculpture is referred to as a Panopticon, a structure providing a comprehensive view. Although it is only about ten feet tall the structure seems to tower over the landscape which proves its comprehensive view. While resembling a tree in certain viewpoints it does seem closely similar to a tornado. Perhaps it could be a symbol of the rapid and energetic change occurring in the borough at the time. Located on top of a mountain as well provides it with a multitude of varying wind speeds and changes in direction. This allows the true beauty of the structure to come to life and produce sound. Singing Ringing Tree is made of various galvanized steel pipes which emit a resonating harmonic and discordant sound when wind blows through them. Holes are drilled into the bottom of the pipes to improve the sound quality and help to tune the pipes in order to create certain sounds. While also seeming aesthetically appealing to the eye, the pipes are laid out in multiple directions to be able to catch all pitches of the wind. Singing Ringing Tree has won an award for architectural excellence from the National Institute of British Architects.


Blackpool Tide Organ

Although sound sculpture mostly relies on the power of air, there are different ways to get the air to power the sounds played. The Blackpool Tide Organ is located in Seaview, Ireland and is positioned right next to the ocean. This sculpture stands at a towering fifty feet and is meant to represent the history of the area as an industrial coastal city. Seaview is a city located next to the ocean which saw many ocean liners steam through the town or deliver cargo. Even today there are still some ships that pass by. The tall, almost fin looking sculpture looks like a part of a ship someone would see passing by which adds to the significance. At the top the tail end is curled down which almost symbolizes movement in the structure like it was cruising like a ship would. This all adds to the meaning of the piece which was created to celebrate the "Great Promenade Show" in the local area. It is also described as a "Musical manifestation of the sea". It is constructed out of concrete, steel, zinc and copper sheeting which are also common materials used in the creation of ships. It creates sound using the energy produced by waves crashing against the tidal wall. It has eight pipes which run underground and have seawater running through them which push different amounts of air at a time ranging at the depth of the tide. The sounds produced by the Blackpool Tide Organ are tuned to be harmonic and in the key of B flat. However if you do listen to it, it also resembles the horns of ship arriving or the grinding of steel much like an industrial town. As described by the locals it is a reflection of the man made and natural environments of the local area.