I know you’ve had your eye on a pipe organ, but you’ll change your mind after you see this. This is the Aeolus, a massive Aeolian wind harp sculpture built by UK artist Luke Jerram. You would think it summons the mighty power of the wind to create crushing, ethereal sounds and rhythmic pulses of air you can use to vibrate the waxy build-up clear out of your eartubes. In fact, it’s much less intense, but still quite impressive.
Aeolus Wind Harp
Aeolus are characters of Greek mythology, the keepers of the winds. Unlike dishing wind out of a bag like the three Greek gods, this sculptures channels the wind through the pipes.
The harp is “designed to resonate and sing with the wind without any electrical power or amplification. Vibrations in strings attached to some of the tubes are transferred through skins covering the tops, and projected down through the tubes towards the viewer standing beneath the arch.”
Even more interesting is how the idea for the project came about. In the interview below, Jerram recounts the meeting of a desert well digger and how the wind would blow across the access shafts, “singing” and creating sounds.
That gave me the idea to think about other pieces of architecture that might create sound, and indeed to create a building that would resonate and sing with the wind.
Although the art piece is impressive, the wind harp isn’t new. There’s a retail market for smaller harps you can put on your lawn to impress the neighbors, as well as an explanation for what causes the strange sound. The wind blowing across the strings produces a swirling vortex pattern called the von Karman vortex street effect. The vortex causes the lines to vibrate and thus, the sound.
Luke’s art piece is currently touring the UK and is also for sale. If you would like to properly impress the neighbors by purchasing a wind harp for your front lawn, you can contact Jerram at firstname.lastname@example.org.