Sound

The singing, ringing tree

The Singing Ringing Tree is a wind powered sound sculpture resembling a tree set in the landscape of the Pennine mountain range overlooking Burnley, in Lancashire.

Completed in 2006, it is part of the series of four sculptures within the Panopticons arts and regeneration project created by the East Lancashire Environmental Arts Network (ELEAN). The project was set up to erect a series of 21st-century landmarks, or Panopticons (structures providing a comprehensive view), across East Lancashire as symbols of the renaissance of the area.

Designed by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu of Tonkin Liu, the Singing Ringing Tree is a 3 metre tall construction comprising pipes of galvanised steel which harness the energy of the wind to produce a slightly discordant and penetrating choral sound covering a range of several octaves. Some of the pipes are primarily structural and aesthetic elements, while others have been cut across their width enabling the sound. The harmonic and singing qualities of the tree were produced by tuning the pipes according to their length by adding holes to the underside of each.

In 2007, the sculpture won (along with 13 other candidates) the National Award of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for architectural excellence.

Here’s a video of the Singing, Ringing Tree in action:

The sound of an iceberg cracking

The university of Washington has put together this audio recording of a giant, 76 mile long by 17 mile wide iceberg cracking apart. So you can actually hear it, it’s been compressed by a factor of about 200, to render an audio file about 2 minutes long.

The location was close to Antarctica’s Cape Adare, where it hit an underwater shoal. It broke into a number of large chunks in about 5 hours.

The wind-like, whistling sounds are the harmonics created as the iceberg sticks and slips over the shoal. Listen as the cracking sounds build – that’s probably fractures propagating through the iceberg like an ice cube fracturing when put in a glass of water – and then a sharp shot. The eerie moaning sounds are probably from the resulting pieces of ice rubbing against each other.

It’s actually pretty interesting to hear – you get this huge feeling of anticipation until it finally breaks apart. It was recorded 700 miles away, at the South Pole. Listen to the audio for yourself:

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Tarzan

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Tarzan’s yell is an aural palindrome. That is all.

The sound of electricity

BZZZ! the sound of electricity is a sound sculpture by Cécile Babiole, exhibited at Plateforme-Paris in June 2012:

By reinventing an obsolete low-tech sound wave generator in this all-digital age, “Bzzz !” serves as a commentary on the history of technology and a tribute to unprocessed, unsampled analog sound : in a word, the raw sound of electricity.

The installation consists of 6 micro-controlers, 6 resistors scales, 12 small PA et 24 small loudspeakers. I love it.

Making engine sounds pleasant

Sound Design Lab LLC and the Takeshi Toi Laboratory at Chuo University in Japan have been working on a project to make engine sounds more pleasant to listen to. The idea is that engine sounds are usually perceived to be noise pollution, however the researchers have discovered that engine sounds are quite similar to stringed instruments.

Some people are concerned that the noiselessness of electric cars can make them dangerous, especially to pedestrians. The team is investigating sounds that they can use that will sound enough like an engine to give people cues on how fast the car is going, and from what direction, but at the same time sound nice.

The sound of the bomb

Put on some good headphones and listen to this – it’s the sounds of the Atomic bomb test ANNIE, March 17, 1953. What is interesting (and rare) about this one is that the sound has not been edited or mangled in any way. In almost every bomb test video, the sound has been edited – most notably to line up the visual explosion with the sound. Since light travels faster than sound, the explosion is heard many seconds after we see the bomb go off.

The other neat thing about this is that all of the ambient noises are left intact – you hear the rustling of people, the countdown, the blast and the huge whooshing, growling sound – then the whistles, “whoah!”, “Jeez!” of army personnel after it subsides.

This video really puts you there – listen to the whole thing through – even close your eyes, and imagine being in attendance… you can really feel the anticipation of the massive explosion.

Swing

Jimi Hendrix and Steve Reich walk in to a bar, and each drop a tab of acid…

This is great conceptually – put 2 amplifiers a few feet apart, crank them up to the point where a nearby guitar will feed back, and swing the guitar back & forth between the 2 amps. I assumed that it would be a huge, awful sounding mess, but it’s surprisingly dynamic.

It sort of sounds like what the outtakes to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music would sound like (and to think he was thinking of doing a followup to that album!)

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