We spoke to Ali Miharbi to learn all about his new 'Wind Organ' installation which can be found in the Horniman Gardens.
What the materials are that the pipes are made of?
They are made of stainless steel pipes.
How tall they are and their maximum width?
Each of them is 3 meters tall, but there is an additional 75 cm part that is underground to hold them in place. The maximum diameter of the pipes that they’re made of is 7 cm. There are also 2cm and 4cm sections and the poles that support them are also 4cm.
How are the different vowel sounds created by the pipes?
When the wind flows through the slots, the pipes are played by the wind, like a side-blown flute is played. Different combinations of pipe diameters act as filters and change the characteristics of the sounds. Each pole carries three separate flutes welded on top of each other. They face different directions so that they can capture a wider range of wind directions.
How long did each pipe take to make?
Altogether the production took less than a month, but the preparation was longer. There was a period of a few months for testing different materials and techniques by building prototypes. Also, the idea was a result of much earlier projects that used air compressors instead of wind
What inspired this installation?
The Wind Organ is a continuation of my ongoing interest in the materiality of sound, information, and its relationship with space. My solo exhibition at Pilot Gallery in Istanbul in April 2017 was entitled "Pneuma" and revolved around the subjects of wind, voice, breath, the routines as well as the unexpected of everyday life for which weather was not only a metaphor but also a component that sometimes literally flowed through the work. Getting out of the gallery space and experimenting with the wind directly was something I had been thinking for a while and I had been doing research about aeolian harps (there is one in the Horniman Museum collection that I saw during my residency at Delfina foundation in Winter 2017) and other instruments played by the wind, and as an extension of my previous work, I had the idea to connect the voice-like sounds I have been experimenting with, with an instrument played by the wind. Not only the musical instrument collection and the gardens, but also other collections of the museum such as the natural history department all resonated with these ideas.
How did you go about creating it? What different iterations did you go through with this piece?
First came the rough idea where there were many different options for the technique, some of them unknown at the beginning. Then came research. At the end, practical tests gained speed, but they were always informed by what people have done and found out earlier in many other fields such as experimental music instrument building, the acoustics of speech, and aeolian instruments - both contemporary and traditional.
Was the result what you expected?
More and less, but when everything was finished, the final feeling of watching and listening to it had an unpredictable and unexpected aspect which is is a nice thing to have.
What would you like people to think of or consider when they experience the sound or see the installation?
I think this is one of those pieces that speaks for itself, as long as there is some breeze giving it a voice. Even if people would watch and listen to it without knowing that the shapes they see were designed after vowel resonators, they still wouldn’t miss much.
This installation is in our Gardens. How important are nature and the outdoors to your work?
Since this is an instrument played by the wind, it is crucial that the piece is outdoors and directly influenced by the wind. But this is the first time I am making such an outdoor installation. A lot of my previous works consisted of indoor installation and many of them required electricity to function.
Are you working on any other projects or do you have any other work that people can go and visit?
Currently, I am just finished with this, so no, but I think this installation will lead to experimentations with different variations in the future.