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The Human Harp Turns Bridges Into Musical Instruments

Most of us are familiar with the concept of wearable technology, but how about the concept of a wearable harp? This is the idea behind sound artist Di Mainstone's Human Harp—Mainstone's work involves creating sculptural instruments that attach to the human body and use movement to produce sound. For the Human Harp she was first struck with the concept after walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and wondering what a sound installation created on it might be like.

From this came the idea of a "parasitic instrument" that magnetically attaches to the bridge via a user wearing a body holster. The holster has custom made modules with digital sensors that detect and measure the vibrations of the suspension cables, harvesting the sounds so people can remix them through movement. This way the user becomes a human harp and the bridge becomes a musical interface in what Mainstone calls "architecture converging with the body".


Human Harp. Images: Martin Noboa

The project has been a collaborative effort from the very start with universities, academics, researchers, and artists from across the globe helping to realise it—and this "research footprint" collaborative approach is something Mainstone wants to continue by eventually making the project open source. To do this, after they've completed this initial research phase, she will be hopefully putting up what they've learned on humanharp.org.


Sketches of the "Human Harp"

From there anyone will be able to download the patent for it, learn the coding and everything else, and help take the project in new directions. "That might be how can we make the module more sustainable or how can we make it more intuitive for a dancer or a pedestrian." notes Mainstone.


Designs for the holster

Now that the project is near completion of its initial phase, the plan is to have a performance of it feature on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York when it reopens in 2014, along with one on the Hungerford and Golden Jubilee Bridges in London. It will be what Mainstone calls an "immersive walkthrough performance for pedestrians and dancers to collaborate and create together"—and will mean the project ends on a cyclical note, ending where it all began.

To learn more about this fascinating convergence of art, music, and architecture, watch the video above.


The modules, 
created by John Nussey, which harvest the sounds from the bridge

@CreatorsProject