aural observations 5: wave organ


Continuing from the previous submission to the ‘Aural Observations’ series of the Sea Organ off the coast of Croatia, I have discovered a ‘Wave Organ’ situated in San Francisco Bay.

The Wave Organ is a wave-activated acoustic sculpture located on a jetty that forms part of the small boats harbour b14c7eab9d1f99fc732fec2ae272d864in the marina district of San Fran. Envisaged by the artist Peter Richards, and installed in collaboration with Sculptor / Stonemason George Gonzalez, the wave organ received inspiration from Bill Fontana’s recordings of sounds emanating from a vent pipe on a harbour in Sydney, Australia.


Originating from a National Endowment for Arts grant received by Richards in the 1980’s for exploration into the wave organ phenomena, the final acoustic structure was completed in May of 1986 after various prototypes, fundraising, and an appearance at the ‘New Music 81’ festival.

The jetty, in which the sculpture is situated was constructed with material taken from a nearby demolished cemetery. The jetty provides a fitting backdrop to the piece, consisting of pieces of carved granite and marble in which the sculpture is embedded. The installation consists of 25 ‘organ’ pipes constructed from PVC and concrete set at various elevations within the jetty to maximise the potential of the collaboration with the sea. The sound is created through the impact of waves against the ends of the pipes, and the fluctuating tide within the pipes. The result, a range of subtle harmonics seamlessly merging with the natural music of the bay.


For more information, and to listen to artist Peter Richards discussing the piece, click here.

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