The Humber Bridge sings for Hull 2017

Published: Friday 31st March 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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From Saturday 1 April, you’ll be able to listen to the intriguing sounds of the Humber Bridge as you walk across the structure.

The Height of the Reeds: A Sound Journey for the Humber Bridge is a unique installation that allows you to immerse yourself in incredible soundscapes as you venture across its span.

We caught up with Hull-based sound artist, Jez Riley French, who was involved in the project, to find out more and what to expect.

The Height of the Reeds is a headphone installation. You collect an audio player and walk the length of the bridge as you listen to the piece,” Explains Jez.

“There are sensors that trigger different parts, depending on how fast or slow you walk.”

The recordings of the bridge were made inside the structure itself by Jez. Meanwhile, Norwegian musicians Arve Henriksen, Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang collaborated with Opera North to create a composition based around these soundbites.

“On the way back, a second piece will play. This one is purely made of the field recordings of the reeds that surround the bridge,” Jez continues.

“These sounds interact with the noises that you hear whilst you’re walking.”

The Height of the Reeds celebrates the bridge as a powerful symbol of home, as well as the rich maritime heritage of the city.

“Opera North wanted to represent both the environment and structure,” he adds.

Often, when people think of the sounds of the Humber Bridge, they may imagine heavy traffic, plus the occasional gust of wind across the river.

However, Jez tells us that the roaring engines of vehicles are not necessarily what you’ll hear during this installation.

“The traffic, in a way, is the smallest sound. When you get inside the bridge, you hear the structure resonating.”

“There are long, deep drones and tonal sounds vibrating throughout,” he enthuses.

Using specialist microphones and equipment that he builds himself, Jez captures the beautiful noises as they filter through the structure.

“Of course, these sounds are instigated by the traffic. However, the engines are not the main sound of the bridge. It’s much more than that and it’s very orchestral.”

Jez also recorded the sounds of a piece of the bridge dissolving, as well as the plant life that surrounds the structure.

“The railings work like tubular bells in a way. I ‘played’ those by gently touching them as I was recording,” he expands.

Jez is renowned for his fabulous recordings of buildings and architecture:

“I’ve travelled all over the world capturing these sounds. I spent seven nights in the Tate Modern, I’ve recorded Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge and a concert hall in St. Hilda’s College, Oxford.”

Jez is also involved in another Hull 2017 event later this year:

“I recorded the sound of the world turning in Iceland. This will be shown during John Grant’s North Atlantic Flux: Sounds from the Smoky Bay.”

This two-day event will be held at Hull City Hall from Friday 28 until Sunday 30 April.

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Published: Friday 31st March 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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