Accessibility links

Ocean's Music Presented by San Fransisco Audio Artist


At the tip of a tiny peninsula near San Francisco, California's Golden Gate Bridge stands the Wave Organ, a work of art that allows people to listen to music created by waves rolling ashore. For producer Liu Enming, Elaine Lu shares the environmental symphony of this wave-powered organ.

A park that looks like ancient ruins holds an unusual acoustic sculpture.

"The Wave Organ is both a place and, I guess you can say, a phenomenon," says artist Peter Richards. "This place is on the edge between the city and the wilderness of the San Francisco Bay. As a phenomenon, it's a series of 25 pipes that extend down into the water.

Richards is a senior artist at San Francisco's Exploratorium science museum. He and stonemason George Gonzales were behind the project. "They create music when waves move in and out of them," explains the artist. But Richards says the inspiration came from the sound of water. "At one point I heard a recording that was made by an artist in Australia. He recorded a floating concrete dock, put his (microphone) into a floating chamber and water moving in and out of that chamber made a beautiful sound. That inspired me to investigate where that sound came from."

Using a series of pipes, the sculpture captures the surf hitting the tubes creating a symphony of waves.

One visitor explains what he heard. "It sounds kind of like a humming and some of them have a higher pitch and some of them have a lower pitch; some of them are 'ooooo,' some of them are 'eeeeee.' I think some of the tubes are longer, they go out into the bay more."

Another young visitor provides her explains what she heard. "I think the organ sounds like the waves in the ocean and it's just really fun to put your ear to the organ."

Richards believes the true beauty of the Wave Organ is the way nature's many sounds mix together. "If I just sit here and listen, I will hear the sounds of the wave organs but hear other sounds as well. Blended together, it becomes this sort of environmental symphony. That's what I encourage people to do, to really listen, not just come out here to hear the wave organ but listen to the landscape."

A local resident remarked, "It's a place I have come out to many many times. This is one of my favorite places in the whole city. It's always quiet out here, there is always very few people and you can kind of get away from the whole city."

Despite being off the beaten path, Richards says it is well worth the trip to enjoy nature's symphony.

XS
SM
MD
LG