Old houses tend to be uniformly creepy, with their unique swishes, groans and clangs. A decade’s old collection of withered girders in an abandoned factory, or the wind swishing through abandoned hallways can create acoustics which make your hair stand on end, praying that whatever it is in there, it won’t be following you. But the dynamics of sound in these large buildings can be manipulated a little creatively, to unleash some marvelous creations of sound and melody.
Playing the building Installation by David Bryne
Imagine an entire building whispering, trembling and vibrating at the very touch of your fingers. David Bryne of Talking Heads fame, seeks to make your dreams come true, with his fantastical installation, “Playing the Building’ . Visitors can use a pump organ, wired to different water pipes, pillars and beams to strike out deep resonant tones from all around them. The building itself doesn’t vibrate, but mechanical parts tied to the various structures can blow air, strike against metal girders and generally create an awesome medley of Victorian proportions. The installation has been displayed at 3 places previously, most recently in 2008 at the Camden Roundhouse, UK.
“Harmonic Bridge” by Bill Fontana
Ohio born, Fontana is a master at using urban landscapes to generate sound and has been sculpting sound on different landmark locations for the past 34 years. Harmonic Bridge uses the natural oscillations of the Millennium Bridge in London, and amplifies them with accelerometers into the two ends of the bridge, one being the Tate Modern Art Gallery the other Southwark Station of the London Underground.
Each and every footfall or the strumming of the high tensile wires holding the bridge aloft have been caught by a multitude of vibration sensors attached at different parts of the bridge. The sound when fed back to the two ends is made to accommodate the acoustics of the Turbine running at the Tate, and the open spaces of the station. A haunting experience, if ever.
Sound Sculptures Audio Clip: Turbine Hall at Tate Modern
Sound Sculptures Audio Clip: Acoustics at Southwark Station
Last December, Bill ran an installation “Spiralling Echoes” on the Rotunda of the San Francisco City Hall, using a highly focused and directional Ultrasound beam, run off against the surfaces of the dome, different audible peaks would emerge changing in tune with the architecture of the dome.
More sound sculptures, ideas, and installations on Bill’s site
While most installations tend to be packed up and disposed by the artists, the Silophone remains behind as a monument to general eeriness and a larger than life collaboration of the Internet, disembodied echoes and architecture.
To put it simply, the Silophone is an abandoned Silo in Montreal, Canada which was put to good use as a giant echo chamber to be fed with the voices and tunes of hundred upon hundreds of enthusiasts. Compositions can be uploaded via the website or by dialing their number, resulting in one rambling echo bouncing of rusted columns and disused shafts as it winds its way down.
Each echo has a deep resonance thanks to the acoustics of Creepy Old Buildings INC, sounding almost as if someone ripped apart a curtain. . . to a time far back in the building’s history, until it fades away again into the mist of time. Up till the next set of calls, that is.
The exhibit seeks to draw attention to the disused grain elevator, Silo No. 5 and find an appropriate use for it in the current context. It’s currently maintained by the Silophone Organisation.
To play a tune, users can simply go to the playlist on the website and click on ‘Play Silophone’, click on any of the tracks listed to play. The sounds take a while to load, and make sure you click on the ‘Hear Silophone’ icon first. Upload your own recording (1 MB and below) in a .MP3 or .WAV format, and let the spine tingling begin.