Playing Industrial Structures

The Human Harp is a device that clips on to any urban or industrial structure enabling the user or movician to play it like a giant instrument.  The human Harp attaches the movician to the structure via retractable strings. By extending, plucking and moving with these musical strings, the movician can adjust various characteristics of the structure’s voice. Human Harp was initiated by London artist Di Mainstone and is now a global collaboration connecting engineers, dancers, musicians and bridge lovers from around the world...

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, Di Mainstone was inspired by the cacophony of sounds that she heard – the clonking of footsteps on the walkway, the whirring of bicycles, the drone of traffic and chatter of visitors.   It struck her that all of these journey sounds were resonating through the steel cables of the bridge and she wondered if she could collaborate with specialist researchers to develop an instrument that would enable pedestrians to release and play these deep hidden sounds.

“As I listened to the hum of the steel suspension cables, the chatter of visitors and the musical ‘clonks’ of their footsteps along the bridge’s wooden walkway, I wondered if these sounds could be recorded, remixed and replayed through a collaborative digital interface? Mirroring the steel suspension cables of the bridge, I decided that this clip-on device could be harp-like, with retractable strings that physically attach the user or Movician’s body to the bridge, literally turning them into a human harp.” DI MAINSTONE

Whilst reaching out to people in London and New York City, to seek permission to install the Human Harp on the Brooklyn Bridge, Di realised how much the symbol of a bridge resonates with people:

“Both physically and metaphorically powerful, bridges cross obstacles and connect people. Each bridge tells us an important story of a country’s development and vitality. I then realised that the very process of pitching the Human Harp project had already created a bridge between Queen Mary University of London and the city of New York. This symbolic bridge is a two-way connection, with data being given and received on either side of the Atlantic, to enrich the concept and enhance the likelihood of the project coming to fruition.” DI MAINSTONE