Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tidal Wave of Sound; CLASSICAL MUSIC for Centuries, Classical Composers Have Serenaded or Mimicked the Forces of Nature. David Whetstone Reports on a Music-Making Enterprise Which Lets Nature Do All the Work

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tidal Wave of Sound; CLASSICAL MUSIC for Centuries, Classical Composers Have Serenaded or Mimicked the Forces of Nature. David Whetstone Reports on a Music-Making Enterprise Which Lets Nature Do All the Work

Article excerpt

The aeolian harp was named after Aeolus, the ancient Greek god of the wind. It is a musical instrument "played" by the wind - just like the chimes that the Chinese were hanging up some 3,000 years ago. You could say that ~Flow is following in a long tradition of natural music although it is reliant on the tide rather than the wind for the sounds it makes.

We reported on ~Flow in the last issue of Culture when it was still under construction at the boatyard in Amble, Northumberland. Now it is on the Tyne, where it opened to the public on March 25 and will be the focus of various musical events throughout the summer.

It was conceived by Tyneside musician Ed Carter and Manchester art group Owl Project, comprising Simon Blackmore, Antony Hall and Steve Symons.

Others, including Amble boatbuilder Nick Spurr, Bedfordshire engineer David Willcox and London architect Nicky Kirk, have also had a hand in the construction of ~Flow, which was the pounds 500,000 project chosen by the Arts Council to be its Artists Taking the Lead project for the Cultural Olympiad in the North East.

The scheme also includes other major projects around the country.

The creation dreamed up by Ed Carter and Co is now a quirky and appealing reality. Described by the Arts Council as electro-acoustic musical machinery powered by the River Tyne, it is a real blend of science and the arts.

The sounds it makes, projected through home-made wooden "speaker horns", are determined by the incoming and outgoing tide which turns David Willcox's specially constructed mill wheel.

But the quality of the river water is also a factor, with the salinity, turbidity (sludginess) and nitrate level recorded by its inner workings determining its musical emissions.

Inside the vessel its constituent parts are handily labelled so you'll know that the array of glass jars and the synthesiser board resembling a log are the salinity sampler sequencer. Bellows and a bubble synthesiser also add to the curious squeak, pop and oompah of ~Flow's natural and continual symphony.

The outward flow of the tide, says Ed Carter, who also performs music as Winter North Atlantic, has proved to be a little stronger than the inward, due to the added swell of the water running off the fells.

There are plenty of composers and musicians who would have loved the possibilities opened up by this intriguing boat-instrument.

John Cage, whose unconventional music has been celebrated both at Baltic and The Sage Gateshead, would have made something of it, you feel.

Throughout the summer the musical properties of ~Flow will be explored through a range of different events, all of which can be seen on the website www.flowmill.org On April 10 (and again on May 10) there will be a series of creative sessions led by The Sage Gateshead's learning and participation ensemble whose members specialise in percussion, voice, piano, fiddle and tin whistle. …

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