Human Harp Project Visualizes Suspension Bridges as Giant Instruments


Artist composes music with her body while connected to Brooklyn Bridge

Ross Brooks
  • 31 july 2014

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how a suspension bridge looks just like a giant harp, or even this obscure stringed instrument. The real challenge however, is trying to get a sound out of the super-strong steel cables. While on a residency at Eyebeam Centre for Art and Technology in New York City, London-based artist Di Mainstone managed to do just that. The result is a vest that makes it possible to compose music using retractable strings attached to a bridge’s suspension cables.

The project is fittingly named Human Harp, and the idea first came to the artist while she was visiting the Brooklyn Bridge. Here’s what went through Di Mainstone’s head at the time:

As I listened to the hum of the steel suspension cables, the chatter of visitors and the musical ‘clonks’ of their footsteps along the bridge’s wooden walkway, I wondered if these sounds could be recorded, remixed and replayed through a collaborative digital interface?

Her wearable instrument consists of a vest with retractable strings that attach to the user on one end, and the cables of the bridge on the other. It’s then up to the “movician” to sway back and forth, contort themselves, and play with the attachments on the vest in order to compose a cohesive piece of music. Check out the video below to see it in action.

In the build-up to the project, the artist spoke with various people in London and New York City, all of whom felt the bridge was a symbol that amounted to more than just a useful way to cross a body of water.

Both physically and metaphorically powerful, bridges cross obstacles and connect people. Each bridge tells us an important story of a country’s development and vitality. I then realised that the very process of pitching the Human Harp project had already created a bridge between Queen Mary University of London and the city of New York.

Keep scrolling for a few more photos of the Human Harp project.

Human Harp

Images by Di Mainstone


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