Aeolus - ruler of the four winds in Greek mythology. Aeolus is a giant stringed musical instrument, an acoustic and optical pavilion designed to make audible the silent shifting patterns of the wind and to visually amplify the ever changing sky.
The sculpture a giant aeolian harp, designed to resonate and sing with the wind without any electrical power or amplification. Vibrations in strings attached to some of the tubes are transferred through skins covering the tops, and projected down through the tubes towards the viewer standing beneath the arch.
Aeolus sonifies the three dimensional landscape of wind, using a web of aeolian harp strings. Almost like cats' whiskers sensitive to the slightest touch, the stings register the shifting landscape of wind around the artwork to be heard by visitors. The aim is for the public to be able to visualise this shifting wind map by interpreting the sound around them.
For those tubes without strings attached, the tubes are tuned to an aeolian scale and hum at a series of low frequencies even when its not windy.
Beneath the arch a viewer can look out through a field of 310 internally polished stainless steel tubes simultaneously, each of which draws the landscape of light through the structure whilst humming at a series of low frequencies. These light pipes act to frame, invert and magnify the landscape around the pavilion enabling the viewer to contemplate an ever changing landscape of light. As the clouds and sun move across the sky throughout the day, the visual experience for the public will dramatically alter minute by minute, hour by hour.
An investigation into acoustics, wind, architecture and light, Aeolus was inspired by Luke Jerram's research trip to Iran in 2007 where he explored the mosques of Isfahan and interviewed a Qanat desert well digger about his life. The well digger spoke of the wells singing in the wind which led Jerram to investigate the acoustics of architecture and create this new work.
The artwork was commissioned to inspire the public and engage them in the subjects of engineering, acoustics and aerodynamics. Aeolus sculpture and associated science public engagement is the result of a collaboration between Luke Jerram and Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at the University of Southampton and The Acoustics Research Centre at the University of Salford. Watch video of Dr Ian Drumm, acoustic scientist from Salford University's Acoustic Research Centre discusses its acoustic properties.
As the arch is double curved, (a wedge section taken from a sphere) acoustics under the arch are extraordinary. The arch acts as an acoustic lens, focusing any sounds made by the tubes (or by a visitor standing under the arch) to a central point. A bizarre echo can be heard. Jerram witnessed this effect whilst in Iran studying the geometry and acoustic properties of mosques. See film on you tube.
Discovered by chance, the wider end of the arch also acts as a mild sonic crystal filtering sounds from one side of the tubes to the other.
An extensive programme of creative engineering workshops has been funded. Go to www.aeolus-outreach.com for more information. See this Pdf of DIY Toolkit made for schools, created through educational workshops carried out so far.
A 'Making of Aeolus' exhibition was be presented at the RWA, Bristol 2011.
Aeolus has now been installed permanently at Airbus, a leading aircraft manufacturer, at their facilities in Filton, Bristol.