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'Aeolus' and the 'Singing Ringing Tree' - When the wind plays
Among the most curious and unusual musical instruments in the world, a particularly suggestive category is that activated by natural elements.

If it is thewater to make the marine organs of Zadar (Zadar, Croatia) and San Francisco resonate (see link) and the land to give voice to the Grand Stalacpipe Organ in the Luray Caves in Virginia (see link), there are, as it is not difficult to imagine, tools operated byair, without human intervention.

Among these, the Aeolian harp or wind chimes have been known since very ancient times, but the wind is also the creator of the sounds of very current sound-environmental installations such as Aeolus by British artist Luke Jerram (2011) or the Singing Ringing Tree by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu (2006).

Luke Jerram (* 1974), visual artist, creator of sculptures, installations and performances, drew the first inspiration for his work Aeolus from a research trip to Iran in 2007, where he had the opportunity to study the mosques of Isfahan, analyzing in particular their acoustic aspects, such as the diffusion and reverberations of the sound inside; a further inspiration came from the encounter with a digger of qanat in the desert (the ancient hydraulic technique based on the construction of underground canals for the transport of water), who spoke to him of wells that 'sing' with the wind.

Fascinated by these interactions between architecture, engineering and sound, Jerram deepened his studies on acoustics, also with the help of experiments and models, to arrive at the creation of a work that, from its name, pays homage to the god of winds.

Aeolus is a giant sound sculpture, a monumental chordophone: a contemporary and unusual version of the Aeolian harp, formed by a semicircular structure supporting metal tubes of different length and inclination, to some of which are attached strings. The wind, from whatever direction it comes, is channeled into the metal rods, and the vibrations of the strings are transmitted through the skins that cover the top of part of the tubes, projecting the sound downwards, in the direction of the spectator standing under the arch .

The work could be defined as an acoustic and optical pavilion, which makes the changing and silent movements of the wind audible, and visually amplifies the ever-changing sky.

The goal is to make perceptible, through the sound waves, the changing map of the wind, which varies continuously and so suddenly that we hardly notice it; however, it is enough to stop for a few minutes inside the sculpture to realize it, listening to the changing sounds. Sensitive like the whiskers of cats, Aeolus in fact, it records every slight change in the winds around it, making it audible to visitors.  

The work is designed to resonate and 'sing' with the wind without using any power supply or amplification. The stringless tubes are calibrated on an Aeolian scale, and resonate in the low frequencies even in the absence of wind. The double curvature of the arch creates extraordinary acoustics, almost as if it were one lens acoustics where all the sounds produced by the pipes and by the visitors inside the work converge in a single central point. It creates an extraordinary echo effect reminiscent of that of mosques.

Aeolus it also offers an unusual visual experience: standing under the arch you can observe the surrounding landscape through more than 300 tubes of polished steel, in which lights and colors that are constantly changing are reflected. With the movement of the sun, clouds and wind, the spectator's sensory experience is never the same, but varies from minute to minute and from hour to hour.

The sound sculpture, the result of the collaboration between Luke Jerram, l'Institute of Sound and Vibration Research of the University of Southampton and theAcoustic Research Center of the University of Salford, was presented as a temporary installation in various places in the United Kingdom, and found a permanent location at the headquarters of the multinational Airbus in Filton, Bristol. 

Singing Ringing Tree

In the UK there is also another wind-powered sound sculpture, the Singing Ringing Tree, designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu.

Installed in 2006 in Lancashire, in the countryside north of Liverpool, the Singing Ringing Tree it is 3 meters high and is based on the same principle of channeling the wind to produce sounds, of harnessing its energy to listen to music.

Made of galvanized steel tubes of different lengths, it recalls the stylized shape of a tree; some elements have a predominantly structural and visual function, but most of them are dedicated to the emission of sounds: tuned on different resonant frequencies, the tubes have different lengths and are superimposed in an asymmetrical way, thus generating a music that varies according to depending on the wind conditions, which in these places can reach 170 km per hour.

The work resembles the stylized outline of a tree, and takes its name from the title of a children's film produced in 1957 in East Germany and which became very popular in Great Britain.

The sound sculpture is part of a larger project of enhancement and regeneration of the territory, a rural area with few elements of interest but with splendid hilly landscapes, through the installation of contemporary works of art as points of reference in the landscape and elements also of tourist attraction.

The Singing Ringing Tree was awarded the national RIBA Award 2007 of Royal Institute of British Architects awarded to the best architectural works in the United Kingdom.

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