The acoustic principles are the same as wind instruments (and pipe organs). But there’s something eerily beautiful about wind organs – and they’re easy enough to make.
bassling from Australia sends in this how-to from Australia, to get you started. There, of course, it’s fall, meaning this could be viewed in the “spooky Halloween” territory for the southern hemisphere now. But I’m glad for wind organs all year round.
The inspiration is Didier Ferment’s “Plastorgan,” which originates this technique. You’ll find written instructions and images at that site:
Since you’re dealing with the dynamics of air and real materials, there is an art to making this stuff work in addition to the maths and physics. But you can use upcycled bottles, and tiny details make a difference in timbre as well as pitch – from Didier:
A slit of 8 cm by 10 mm produces a deep sound except when the wind picks-up and brings the sound one octave higher.
A slit of 11 cm by 9 mm gives a medium sound, relatively clear within a wide wind range as well in speed as in angle of attack.
A slit of 20 cm by 6 mm gives a shrill whistle but requires a very precise angle of attack of the wind.
A slit of 16 cm by 17 mm will deliver a hoarse sound.
Oh yeah, and this is a way better use of plastic after the fact than what John Oliver recently covered. Just maybe don’t install it on a neighbor’s fence; they might not like that.
Sound artists and sculptors have gone all kinds of different directions with wind instruments – wind organs or sea organs or Aeolian harps. Just a few examples:
Here in Berlin, there’s a beautiful Windharfen-Installation constructed by artist Paul Pfarr in 1985 and housed at Britzer Garten. (The text here is old – it’s definitely installed and working.) An old video from when I was last there, as I couldn’t find documentation:
(It’s too late now, but apparently some were installed at Tempelhof for one day by artist Max Eastley.)
There’s the spectacular Wave Organ, hosted by the Exploratorium and created by artists Peter Richards and George Gonzalez.
Or the Zadar Sea Organ in Croatia, produced by Nikola Bašić:
Tonkin Liu’s gorgeous Singing Ringing Tree in Burnley, UK is one of the more nuanced and sophisticated instruments built on this principle:
Here’s a great article on the topic, too:
Atlas Obscura has a good round-up too:
Oh yeah, and if you’re pondering making one yourself, turn to the original 1915 article from Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, which you can read online: