Thursday, August 21, 2008

Zadarske: morske orgulje

Sea Organ - musical instrument played by the sea

The musical Sea Organ (morske orgulje) is located on the shores of Zadar, Croatia, and is the world’s first musical pipe organs that is played by the sea. Simple and elegant steps, carved in white stone, were built on the quayside. Underneath, there are 35 musically tuned tubes with whistle openings on the sidewalk. The movement of the sea pushes air through, and – depending on the size and velocity of the wave – musical chords are played. The waves create random harmonic sounds.

This masterpiece of acoustics and architecture was created by expert Dalmatian stone carvers and architect Nikola Basic in 2005, who recently received the European Prize for Urban Public Space for this project. Many tourists come to listen to this unique aerophone, and enjoy unforgettable sunsets with a view of nearby islands.

The Sea Organ was designed to reflect a local urban musical tradition. In this part of Croatia the prevailing musical tradition is the spontaneous four-voice male singing, with melodies and chords conformed to the Europe's autochthonous diatonic major scale. As noted, the instalation's 35 flue pipes are grouped into 7 successive sections. The 5 pipes of each section are arranged with ca 1.5 m spacings. One listener, standing or sitting on a chosen point on the scalinade, should be able to hear well 5 to 7 nearest pipes i.e. mainly those housed inside the relevant section. Thus a logical choice is to tune a whole five-pipe-section to one chord. This chord shall contain tones out of the said diatonic major scale.

Further, it seemed appropriate to alternate along the whole scalinade two different but the harmonically cognate chords. The sequence of chords g - c6 - g - c6 - g - c6 - g was chosen to tune 7 sections from NW to SE. This combination of tones sounds pleasingly even under extreme circumstances of perpendicular waves when all the 35 pipes may sound simultaneously, in cluster. In all other circumstances, Sea Organ will perform monophonic, biphonic and/or polyphonic tone series, much in the way that mouth-organ players perform.


Sunday, August 10, 2008