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If You Listen Closely, You’ll Hear a Surprise

This post is part of our Weekend Notes series. Take a breather to get inspired by the power of steel and enjoy your weekend. 

“I’m only limited by my imagination in what can be produced. Anything is possible.”
– Luke Jerram

Luke Jerram is the kind of guy who embodies the idea of the “Renaissance man.” The British multimedia artist is well-known for his public engagement artworks, such as his ongoing Play Me, I’m Yours installation where he installs upright pianos on major metropolitan streets, or Sky Orchestra, an audio landscape piece where he attaches speakers blaring classical music to hot air balloons.

In the world of fine art, Jerram has worked across several mediums, including his incredible Glass Microbiology series that features macroscopic glass-blown renderings of contagious diseases. However, it’s his metal work in Aeolus that caught our attention.

Jerram was inspired by a trip to Iran where he was amazed by the famous acoustics of Isfahan’s mosques. He also spoke with a well digger who told him how the well would ‘whistle’ when the wind blew. He enlisted the help of engineers and acoustics researchers to help create a “sound map” for the viewer to engage in.

Named after the Greek god of winds, Aeolus is an acoustic wind pavilion made out of 310 polished stainless steel tubes. Some of the tubes contain strings and when the wind blows through, what’s described as a ‘bizarre echo’ is heard. The tubes and strings are all tuned along the Aeolian scale, making the sculpture’s hum change with the wind (though it constantly hums at low frequencies without it). The tubes also modify the light around the structure and funnel it towards the viewer under the pavilion, creating a constantly changing audio-visual landscape in which to get lost.

The piece is now permanently installed at the headquarters of Airbus in Bristol.

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