Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Singing sands

Landscapes can be more or less musical. Desert sands have been known to sing and beaches that are silent when wet, can sound underfoot like Japanese koto music. David Toop mentions these phenomena in his book Ocean of Sound (1995). He refers to the researches of Shigeo Miwa into the gradual disappearance of singing sands across the world. A sample from Pensacola Beach in Florida was restored to voice by being boiled in water for 40 minutes to remove the pollutants. The sample is now in the Nima Sand Museum in Japan.

Since David Toop’s book there has been further research into the phenomenon of singing sounds. New Scientist reported last year that ‘St├ęphane Douady of the French national research agency CNRS and his colleagues shipped sand from Moroccan singing dunes back to his lab to investigate. They found that they could play notes by pushing the sand by hand, or with a metal handle.’ You can hear impressive sounds of sands recorded by Doady at his website.

Singing sands are now being utilised by composers like Pippa Murphy (‘Voix du Sable’). The most famous British site for singing sands is on the Isle of Eigg. My only experience of a sand soundscape was Squeaky Beach, Wilson’s Promontory, Australia: the photograph below was taken there in 1996.


Anonymous said...

Also, check out this artist project it's all about singing sand and scientific experiments, there's even mpegs of the films made.


Plinius said...

Thanks - this is an interesting site. There's a lot going on in this area at the moment.