Artist Di Mainstone creates a musical device to play Clifton Suspension Bridge like a giant string instrument

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Queen Mary University of London Artist-in-Residence Di Mainstone has released a new online film which reveals the voice of the Clifton Suspension Bridge for the first time. Using specially created ‘bridge bows’ developed at Bristol’s Pervasive Media Studio with engineers from Arup and students from the University of the West of England, Di’s team have harnessed the low frequency vibrations of the suspension rods, found a way to turn them into music and captured the event on film.

‘#PlayTheBridge’, shows Movician George Hampton Wale assembling her bridge playing apparatus and controlling the tone and pitch of the sounds generated by the suspension rods via two retractable cables tethered to a body harness. During the development of the project, Di and postgraduate researcher Alesia Milo discovered that the rods of Clifton Suspension Bridge create a 12 tone octave christened the ‘Clifton Scale’ as each 12th rod is half the length of its predecessor.

The first version of Di's new instrument, the 'Human Harp' was launched on 24th May 2013 to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Walking across the bridge, Di was inspired by the sounds that she heard and wondered if she could develop an instrument that could record and play the vibrations collected in its cables. Back in the UK, Di worked with the Arts Council England, Sennheiser and the Roundhouse venue to create the Human Harp Live-Lab where students from Queen Mary University and a team of engineers, musicians and dancers worked together to develop the ‘Bridge-Bow’, an instrument that could play the bridge in real time.

Di says “It has been fun working with my longtime collaborators Becky Stewart, Seb Madgwick, Adam Stark and David Ross to develop the Human Harp’s new 'digi-bow' making it more playful, intuitive and robust.  I wanted our film to show the viewers the digi-bow’s sonic potential. Filmmaking and storytelling are crucial to my process, allowing me to show how the player of my instruments (the movician) interacts with each device to trigger sound.  I love the idea of changing objects into something new and creating a playful, Alice in Wonderland experience where harps grow to the size of suspension bridges and sing their own melody!”

‘#PlayTheBridge’ is now available at www.vimeo.com/126139725. Di Mainstone and her team of Movicians will be playing pop-up performances in unexpected places throughout the UK, Europe and the US. To find out more about the project and performances, go to www.humanharp.org

Website by Circle Interactive

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