The sound and performance artist Di Mainstone had an epiphany when walking across the Brooklyn Bridge one day; she realized that it looked a lot like a harp, with the suspension cables resembling the instrument's strings and the deck and towers mimicking its neck and body.
And the bridge not only looked like a musical instrument. The chatter and footsteps of pedestrians, the low rumble of traffic, and the slight thrum of the suspension wires also evoked the sound of a symphony or piece of music—albeit a slightly cacophonous, often noisy one.
This moment of whimsy has inspired the Human Harp, Di Mainstone's latest project, which allows one to play the bridge as a musical instrument. The artist envisions the Human Harp as both a physical connection and interactive performance piece.
Suspension bridges such as the Brooklyn Bridge are always vibrating only at frequencies not detectable to the human ear. The Human Harp utilizes a magnetic digital interface module that Di Mainstone attaches to the bridge; these modules translate the pulsations into sounds, which can then be manipulated.
The elements attached to the bridge are then fastened to a harness worn by the “movician” by retractable cords. Any movement by the person changes the length and angle of the string, which in turn controls the pitch, volume, timbre, and amplitude of the sound waves. Through movement and the generation of sound Di Mainstone’s creation allows for the participant the tactile experience of playing the Brooklyn Bridge as a musical instrument.
The Human Harp project seeks to literally connect the inhabitants of a place to the architecture surrounding them, allowing them a way to collaborate with the built environment. These interactions will be recorded, and are singular as a drawing, in their representation of one person’s experience of the bridge.
All photos via humanharp.org