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Sounds Earthy


Wind and clouds inspire musical renditions.

Musician Will Bates and artist David Bowen have taken note of philosopher George Santayana’s statement, “The earth has music for those who listen.” Each has taken the sounds of the natural world to create musical pieces. Bates’ project was initiated by the company Siemens to promote the 448 wind turbines that they are installing in Iowa (the leading state in wind power in the U.S.). The new turbines will generate power for 317,000 homes. Using the sound of wind generated from turbines and recorded through an assemblage of PVC pipes and microphones, Bates recreated the Blue Danube waltz. The musician commented, “We had first envisioned creating an original piece but felt the scale and style of the Blue Danube waltz was well suited due to its recognizable sound and the quality of the tones. It is haunting when translated." The song accompanied by scenes from Iowa can be seen here.

Cloud Piano is an installation conceived by Bowen who has previously experimented with the sound of ocean waves. Bowen set up a camera on the roof of L’Assaut de la Menuiserie, a museum in France, which tracks clouds. A computer program translates the appearance of the clouds into 88 segments (for each of the keys on a piano) which are sent through sensors to a piano that is housed on a stage inside the museum. The keys are then pressed based on the shape of the clouds. Bowen says, “If a dense cloud is detected, the key is pressed hard. If it is a light cloud, the key is barely pressed at all. In this way, the intensity and speed at which the piano is played is determined by the intensity, speed, and shape of the clouds.” What makes the project especially unique is Bowen’s philosophy of literalism. Nothing is added or mixed to the compositions – the shape of the clouds creates the final sound.

Photo by rsvstks, licensed under Creative Commons.