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Di Mainstone and collaborators play Clifton Suspension Bridge like a giant string instrument

Di Mainstone and collaborators play Clifton Suspension Bridge like a giant string instrument

Our Artist-in-Residence Di Mainstone has released a new online film which reveals the voice of the Clifton Suspension Bridge for the first time. Using specially created ‘bridge bows’ developed at Bristol’s Pervasive Media Studio with engineers from Arup and students from the University of the West of England, Di’s team have harnessed the low frequency vibrations of the suspension rods, found a way to turn them into music and captured the event on film.

‘#PlayTheBridge’, shows Movician (bridge player) George Hampton Wale assembling her bridge playing apparatus and controlling the tone and pitch of the sounds generated by the suspension rods via two retractable cables tethered to a body harness. During the development of the project, postgraduate researcher Alesia Milo (a PhD student on our Media and Arts Technology programme) discovered that the rods of Clifton Suspension Bridge create a 12 tone octave which Di christened the ‘Clifton Scale’ as the suspension rods on the bridge are halved in height every 12th rod.

The first version of Di’s new instrument, the ‘Human Harp’ was launched on 24th May 2013 to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Walking across the bridge, Di was inspired by the sounds that she heard and wondered if she could develop an instrument that could record and play the vibrations collected in its cables. Back in the UK, Di worked with the Arts Council England, Sennheiser and the Roundhouse venue to create the Human Harp Live-Lab where students from Queen Mary University and a team of engineers, musicians and dancers worked together to develop the ‘Bridge-Bow’, an instrument that could play the bridge in real time.

Di says “It has been fun working with my longtime collaborators Becky Stewart and Adam Stark (who completed their PhDs with QMUL’s Centre for Digital Music), Seb Madgwick and David Ross to develop the Human Harp’s new ‘digi-bow’ making it more playful, intuitive and robust. I wanted our film to show the viewers the digi-bow’s sonic potential. Filmmaking and storytelling are crucial to my process, allowing me to show how the player of my instruments (the movician) interacts with each device to trigger sound. I love the idea of changing objects into something new and creating a playful, Alice in Wonderland experience where harps grow to the size of suspension bridges and sing their own melody!”

‘#PlayTheBridge’ is now available at /126139725. Di Mainstone and her team of Movicians will be playing pop-up performances in unexpected places throughout the UK, Europe and the US. To find out more about the project and performances, go to

Film Credits
Narrative: Di Mainstone
Movician: George Hampton Wale
Director: Di Mainstone
Director of photography: Jesse Lawrence
Editor: Jesse Lawrence
Additional Edits: Nye Edwards
Sound: Cassini Sound, Charlotte Barnes, Lukas Greiwe, Martyn Harries and Adam JB
Producers: Early Day Films - Linn Waite and Kate Byers
Human Harp Team
Artistic Lead: Di Mainstone
Technical Producer: Becky Stewart
ARUP Engineering: Roland Trim, Ian Wise and Alan Dennis
Electrical Engineering: Seb Madgwick
Industrial Engineering: David Ross
Audio Software: Adam Stark
Creative Assistants: George Hampton Wale, Lewys Webber, Harry Fricker
Audio samples and high-res images are available on request.
For more information:
Contact Di Mainstone, or 0753 068 8817

CATEGORY: Research Outreach School

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