The project asked a group of eight well-known improvisational musicians to “react” to four Dutch bridges (or, more accurately, to field recordings made on, under, and near those bridges). The project is thus as much about musical improv as it is about infrastructural acoustics—a structural ecology of sound vibrantly humming in the spaces around us.
As The Wire explains in a short article about the project, Zuydervelt and Hiddink “paired the eight musicians not to play together, but to react separately to the field recordings, which he then mixed together with the primary field recordings.”
As it happens, there’s a surprisingly strong artistic interest in turning bridges into sound.
A few years ago, for instance, a project called “Singing Bridges” made the news. It was “a sonic sculpture, playing the cables of stay-cabled and suspension bridges as musical instruments,” and the artist behind it—Jodi Rose—wrote that she aimed to “amplify and record the sound of bridge cables around the world.”
Artists Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger, meanwhile, explored the acoustics of an urban bridge with their project “Harmonic Bridge” (which I had the pleasure of hearing during its run at MASS MoCA). That project, as the museum explained it, produced a roiling “eddy of sound in the midst of intersecting streams of traffic. Cars pass by heading north or south on Marshall Street and east or west on the Route 2 bridge, but this linear motion is counterpoised by a rolling, humming C as calming as the rhythm of ocean waves.”
More broadly, the artists add, “The bridge becomes an instrument played by the city revealing hidden harmonies within the built environment.”
Releasing drone-bursts, buzzes, rumbles, and bells, bridges are the ignored instruments of the city, strongly suggesting that the urban context so often prized by architects and designers should also include an awareness of that region’s acoustics—a neighborhood zoned for singing bridges and harmonic roads, given rhythm by the thumping and amplified tectonics of the subways. The bridge becomes an Aeolian harp—infrastructure gone acoustic—its formal sonic properties activated by the turbulent motions of the environment around it.
(Environmental sounds elsewhere: Dancing About Architecture).