Bib., Documentation, Abstract, and Technical Challenges

Inspirational works and artists:

Mainly, I was inspired by the site itself and my experiences on it. However, Abby gave me some great insight into the work of Luke Jerram and his “acoustic wind pavilion,” Aeolus. Jerram sought to make architecture sing with this beautiful, metallic structure. What I really love is how he invites the listener to interact with the installation as well as the space by encouraging viewing the landscape through the metal tubes all around oneself. However, I would much prefer my listener to experience the work without needing to come in contact with it. I want it to be part of the setting and not the focus of the experience. Along these lines, I was more drawn to Thomas Ward McCain’s wind harp in Chelsea, Vermont. While this dwarfs my intended work, the harp itself is a part of the environment. It is something that you appreciate as you wander up or down the hill. I want the same type of interaction in my work. It is also noteworthy to mention the work of Alan Lamb and his desire to venerate and utilize nature in his installations. While his projects are all far larger than what I have intended, I hope to capture the essence of the surrounding space as he did.

 

Initial Documentation:

My brief video of my first time at the location is here.

 

Abstract and Project Goals:

I hope to create a medium-scale aeolian harp that reflects the characteristics of the space wherein it is located. I selected the space between Scaife Hall and the Schenley Drive Bridge that is bordered by Frew Street and the railroad tracks north of Hamburg Hall, to the southwest and northwest respectively. I walk along this path quite often and thought it was an interesting space that had some noteworthy characteristics. The industrialism of the bridge’s metalwork, the defunct boiler factory across from the site, and the rail lines along the bottom of the valley all speak to the heavily industrialized past of the city itself. However, the “encroachment” of nature vis-à-vis the trees along the valley walls and Schenley park looming beyond the bridge creates this very overt symbolism that mirrors the city’s renaissance of the past forty years. It was this initial incongruence that drew me to the site, as well as my daily exposure to it.

At first, I wanted to create a piece that involved listeners by not involving them directly. To that end, I figured that some sort of static sound machines along the points of interest on the path to the bridge would best to capture my intentions. As time went on, I realized that it would prove incredibly frustrating to work on or near the bridge itself as the land is quite steep and perilous. Thus, I opted for a somewhat more muted approach and decided to work with the space detailed in the documentation. (This is also, in some ways, the path of least resistance as the bridge and land along it are city property and working with the city has proven and still proves to be very frustrating.) As the site is quite blustery, due to being situated at the precipice of a valley, I thought it would be prudent and relevant to make use of this fundamental aspect of the space. Thus, my static sound machine took the form of a wind harp that was made using very industrial materials: machine screws and eye loops, drainage piping, and fishing line. It is my hope that these materials will draw a connection to the past industrialism of the area while being situated within nature. I also hope that the harp itself provides some sounds that will ever so subtly enhance the experience of anyone walking along the path.

 

Challenges:

My first challenge was finding a suitable design for the wind harp. More often than not, aeolian harps are made of wood and designed in such a way as to fit on a window sill. While quite pretty, this design did not really suit the space wherein it would be situated. After some time, I stumbled on the work of Stan Hershonik, who has made aeolian harps out of all sorts of materials. My piece is based off of this PVC design.As I had a small window of time to get supplies, it was difficult to find PVC pipe that was of a suitable thickness for the size I envisioned. I settled for what Lowe’s called ‘drainage pipe’ instead, which was thinner and less sturdy, but was the appropriate size. I also tried various strengths of fishing line before I settled on 50 lb test line, as anything less stretched far too much to be useful.

My current dilemma is that the pipe/strings are making sounds, but they are too faint to hear well. I might settle for amplifying the sounds, though this would require the use of contact microphones. I did want to avoid drawing attention to the piece, but I do not want the work to be silent. Similarly, I also want to avoid moving it closer to the sidewalk as I like where I currently plan to have it located. I will try opening some sound holes at the ends of the pipe, though I am not certain if this will create any meaningful amplification.

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