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.

Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.


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