Yesterday Radio 4 broadcast a half hour documentary, 'The Wire', on the music created by wind and weather playing over fencing wire stretched across the Australian landscape. In it, Chris Watson visits The WIRED Lab in New South Wales and talks to Alan Lamb - artist, biomedical research scientist and composer - whose work with the wires began in 1976 when he first heard the sounds made by a 1km stretch of abandoned telephone wires in Western Australia. Lamb relates the story of how, as a young boy, he was introduced to the music of the wires during walks with his sister and their nanny, who showed the children how to press their ears against a telegraph pole to 'hear the sound of the world'. You can get an idea of this from the weather sounds sample below, one of several on the excellent WIRED Lab site. It is 'a multi-layered mix of natural weather pattern sonifications : rising and falling wind patterns, rain storms (heard as cracks and pops when water strikes the pickup, and as zaps/pings/crackles as the rain strikes the wire) and wire resonance tones induced by the wind.'
CreativeComplex-WEATHER-MIX by TheWIREDLab
The documentary is available to listen to on the Radio 4 site for the rest of this week. In the course of the programme Chris Watson uses his own contact mics and buries hydrophones in the earth near the wires with the aim of literally "drawing music from the landscape". But he is also struck by how easy it is to simply stand near the wires and listen to them. My favourite moment comes about 16 minutes in, when Lamb is explaining to Watson how you can feel the vibrations in the wire. As they are talking the background sound changes and Lamb says "Now that was an interesting moment because the sound just changed completely. That's because the sun came out..."