Jonathan Brind via YouTube
Jonathan Brind via YouTube

Listen to These 7 Sound Sculptures

Jonathan Brind via YouTube
Jonathan Brind via YouTube

Some art is intended to be viewed—and some art is meant to be heard. These seven examples require the use of both senses.


Looming above Burnley, the Singing Ringing Tree is made of galvanized steel pipes. As the wind blows through the pipes, the nearly 10-foot-tall sculpture creates eerie sounds in several octaves. When it was completed in 2006, the sculpture improved the aesthetic of the area in more ways than one—before architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu created the tree, the site was home to an old transmission station. Its rundown brick building and unused telegraph lines were dismantled and reused elsewhere to make room for the sculpture.


Like the Singing Ringing Tree, San Francisco’s Wave Organ also uses nature and pipes to make beautiful music. But in this case, the element used is water, not wind. Peter Richards developed the idea for the Wave Organ in the 1970s and tapped sculptor George Gonzales to help him bring the concept to life. The installation was finished in 1986 and has been delighting visitors to the San Francisco Bay ever since. The sound is created when waves interact with 25 organ pipes made out of PVC and concrete that are installed at different elevations. If you're planning to witness the musical magic in person, check the tide first. The Wave Organ typically sounds best at high tide.


Can’t make it to San Francisco? Then try for Blackpool, England. That’s where you’ll find the Blackpool High Tide Organ, a “musical manifestation of the sea” made of concrete, steel, zinc and copper that was created in 2002. High tide pushes air up into inlet pipes, which causes organ pipes to make sounds in a B-flat series. “Its sound is more ambient than tuneful,” co-designer Liam Curtain explains of the 49-foot-tall structure.

Visitors can hear the award-winning organ play up to three hours before high tide, and it continues for about two hours after high tide.


First things first: Yes, the band Soundgarden is named after this sculpture. Created by sculptor Douglas Hollis in 1983, Seattle’s “A Sound Garden” consists of twelve 20-foot steel towers with wind vanes and organ pipes attached to them. When the wind blows, the vanes rotate the pipes in that direction and haunting sounds emanate from the sculpture—but it will have to be a strong wind. Because of the work's deterioration over time, only strong winds create audible tones.


The next time you catch yourself in downtown Cincinnati, keep an eye out for the Pendleton Spinnradl—at 14 feet tall, you can’t miss them. In order to see the two collaborative sculptures at work, visitors simply turn a handcrank that makes them sing. One plays “Coney Island Dip,” written by a Cincinnati composer, and the other appropriately plays “Spinnradl,” a German dance song.


Harry Bertoia wanted to create an instrument that anyone could immediately play without years of training and study. During one of his experiments, Bertoia was bending a wire and it broke, striking another one. The melodious noise it made immediately stood out to him. What sound would it make if hundreds of wires struck each other?

That question inspired the world-known artist to create a series of sculptures in the 1960s and '70s in varying shapes and sizes. Eventually, Bertoia went on to record 11 self-released vinyl albums of himself playing the structures. He called the music "Sonambient," a term meaning the process of making sound with the sculptures.


Like some of the other sculptures on our list, the Sea Organ, created by architect Nikola Bašić, also relies on the movement of water to create sound. But its structure is a little different—a series of stone steps disappear down into the water, and beneath them, 35 pipes make noise based on the waves and air pressure. There are five pipes per step, each one tuned to a different chord. The 230-foot-long Sea Organ won the European Prize for Urban Public Space in 2006.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Art Lovers in England, Rejoice: France's Famous Bayeux Tapestry is Coming to the UK
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of France’s most prized national treasures, the Bayeux Tapestry, is officially heading to England for exhibition. The loan will mark the first time the fragile 11th century work has left France in nearly 1000 years, according to The Washington Post.

French president Emmanuel Macron announced news of the loan in mid-January, viewed by some as a gesture to smooth post-Brexit relations with Britain, ABC reports. The tapestry depicts the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, a historically important event replete with guts and glory.

Stretching for 210 feet, the Bayeux Tapestry’s nine embroidered panels tell the tale of Harold, Earl of Wessex, who swore an oath to support the right of William, Duke of Normandy, to the English throne once King Edward (a.k.a. Edward the Confessor) died without an heir. But after Edward's funeral at Westminster Abbey, Harold breaks his oath to William so he could be crowned king instead. Believing he was the rightful ruler, William—today remembered as William the Conqueror—decides to wage war and ultimately defeats Harold at the Battle of Hastings.

The historical narrative has endured for centuries, but the tapestry's provenance has been lost to time. Experts think that the artwork may have been created in England, shortly after the Battle of Hastings, although it’s unclear who designed and embroidered the scenes. Its original owner, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, may have commissioned the Bayeux Tapestry. He became Earl of Kent after the Battle of Hastings, and this new title would have afforded him access to skilled artisans, The Guardian explains.

The Bayeux Tapestry is currently on display in the town of Bayeux in Normandy. It likely won’t leave France until 2020, after conservators ensure that it’s safe to move the artwork. According to The Telegraph, the tapestry might be be displayed at the British Museum in 2022.

[h/t The Washington Post]

Photo composite, Mental Floss. Car, ticket, Simon Laprise. Background, iStock.
This Snow Sculpture of a Car Was So Convincing Cops Tried to Write It a Ticket
Photo composite, Mental Floss. Car, ticket, Simon Laprise. Background, iStock.
Photo composite, Mental Floss. Car, ticket, Simon Laprise. Background, iStock.

Winter is a frustrating time to be on the road, but one artist in Montreal has found a way to make the best of it. As CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reports, his snow sculpture of a DeLorean DMC-12 was so convincing that even the police were fooled.

Simon Laprise of L.S.D Laprise Simon Designs assembled the prank car using snow outside his home in Montreal. He positioned it so it appeared to be parked along the side of the road, and with the weather Montreal has been having lately, a car buried under snow wasn’t an unusual sight.

A police officer spotted the car and was prepared to write it a ticket before noticing it wasn’t what it seemed. He called in backup to confirm that the car wasn’t a car at all.

Instead of getting mad, the officers shared a good laugh over it. “You made our night hahahahaha :)" they wrote on a fake ticket left on the snow sculpture.

The masterpiece was plowed over the next morning, but you can appreciate Laprise’s handiwork in the photos below.

Snow sculpture.

Snow sculpture of car.

Snow sculpture of car.

Note written in French.

[h/t WGCL-TV]

All images courtesy of Simon Laprise.


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