Famous bridges are becoming musical instruments

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A project that extracts music from the cables of Brooklyn Bridge

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Famous bridges are becoming musical instruments
Di Mainstone's Human Harp Project

People usually only attach themselves to the cables of the world’s bridges for reasons of maintenance or for sporting activities, but now it is being done to make music. Di Mainstone, a London-based sound and performance artist, has come up with the novel idea of turning the world’s bridges into giant musical instruments.

Initially inspired by the cable structure of Brooklyn Bridge and how it resembled a giant harp, she developed a project to extract its musical properties. Named the ‘human harp’ her instrument enables a performer to be attached to the bridge’s cables via a series of strings that are attached to a worn harness. Each string represents a harp note and the performer is able to manipulate the sound by changing the length of each string through movement. The electronic pulses from the strings are then conveyed to a computer that allows Mainstone to make the tones of the bridge cables audible.

‘I’d often go up to the Brooklyn Bridge and watch people. I started to think about what could happen if I could create a sound installation from the bridge,’ says Mainstone, artist-in-residence at Queen Mary University in London.

‘There’s the hum and the vibration of the steel cables themselves. Essentially the bridge is a giant instrument, with the steel cables under stress in the same way that a violin and a harp might have and I wondered if I could create an instrument that we could magnetically attach to the bridge.’

As well as marking Brooklyn Bridge’s 130th anniversary last May, Mainstone has toured around the world, with workshops at Copenhagen’s Institute of Interaction Design, London’s Hungerford Bridge and Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. There is performance scheduled in Bristol on 15 March next spring.

See: humanharp.org for more information