Movie: Di Mainstone's Human Harp makes music from suspension bridges

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Di Mainstone's Human Harp creates music from suspension bridges

Dezeen Music Project: London artist Di Mainstone is developing an electronic instrument that enables performers to make music from the subtle vibrations of suspension bridge cables (+ movie).

Human Harp by artist Di Mainstone

"I would regularly go to Brooklyn Bridge [in New York] and it struck me that there's a comparison between a suspension bridge and a harp," said Mainstone, who presented the project at this week's Wearable Futures conference in London.

Human Harp by artist Di Mainstone

"I started thinking about the cables of the bridge, which carry vibrations down them in the same way as a harp string. I wondered if there was a way to develop a parasitic interface that would enable people to 'play' the frequencies of the bridge, which is this beautiful deep droning sound."

She added: "I imagined these people called 'movicians' who were almost part bridge, part instrument with all of these cables attached to them."

Human Harp by artist Di Mainstone

Mainstone's Human Harp, which she is developing in partnership with Queen Mary University of LondonCopenhagen Institute of Interaction Design and studio Anti-Alias Labs, consists of a series of eight electronic modules, which modify digital recordings of the sound of vibrating suspension bridge cables.

Human Harp by artist Di Mainstone
Di Mainstone attaching a Human Harp module to Brooklyn Bridge, New York

These devices, which Mainstone attaches to the structure of the bridge, contain retractable cables that control the volume, pitch and intensity of the sounds based on the length, speed and angle at which they are pulled.

Mainstone's performers wear a special vest, which these cables clip on to, enabling them to alter the music by rolling and contorting their bodies.

Human Harp by artist Di Mainstone

Mainstone tested the Human Harp on Brooklyn Bridge earlier this year, using pre-recorded sounds from the bridge. She is now looking at developing technology to enable the modules to record the sounds of a bridge in real time and wants to create specific sound installations on bridges around the world.

"We plan to do a tour in the UK and then a global tour of suspension bridges after that," she explained.

Human Harp by artist Di Mainstone