It’s a magical thing to walk into an instrument – artist Ragnhild May creates a large-scale wind harp

By Sif Hellerup Madsen

Between harbor and beach, this year´s festival lets you experience an instrument big enough for you to enter. Artist Ragnhild May´s new work is inspired by her passion for wind instruments and the windy landscapes of Struer.

“I was fascinated by the thought of making an instrument that you can walk into. There is something about being inside the piece or being inside the instrument that I really like. In the same way as organs that I have worked a lot with earlier. It´s a magical thing to walk into a church organ,” says artist Ragnhild May elaborating on her thoughts behind the installation ‘Aoelian Pavillion’ at this year’s Struer Tracks.

May’s installation is inspired by an Aeolus harp – also called a wind harp. It is a string instrument known from antiquity and it plays solely by the wind. 

The sound of the work is created when the wind is caught by a funnel that puts the strings of the instrument into motion, thereby creating different overtones.

The wind always blows in Struer

Even though it was several years ago that May read about wind harps for the first time and became fascinated by them, it was not until she visited Struer this year that it made sense for her to use them in a work.

“Someone told me that in Struer it is always windy and the work makes sense here, because the wind is so important to this place. I sail myself and the first thing you talk about when you arrive to a harbor is how the wind and the waves are. You have another awareness of the weather than you do in a big city,” May states.

An alien

Both wind harps and pavilions were known in the Romantic era, but May has chosen to shape her work in another style:

“The design of the pavilion refers to something futuristic or sci-fi architecture. I think it´s exciting to think of it as an alien that has landed somewhere, where it´s a stranger to the surroundings, but also relates to them. It has references to a boat shed but at the same time it is something completely different,” May says and laughs.

The installation can be found between Struer Harbor and the beach. Inspired by the area it will be painted with old fashioned paint like linseed oil and tree tar and lastly applied with a type of varnish often used for boats.

 

Mays' sound art installation 'Aeolian Pavillon' will be located here, at Vrald Odde, in Struer harbour.

Both in- and outside at the same time

Pavilions are interesting to May because they are both in- and outside at the same time. That also means that the audience can walk in and out of the installation as they wish:

”You can come really close, you can move around or stay in the space. In that way I imagine that you feel invited into the work - also because you are allowed to touch things.”

At the same time pavilions today are characterized by being temporary architecture and that´s also something May works with in her artistic practice. “In general I like working with temporality. Music, composition and performances are also temporary. And that goes for the work in Struer too – just on a larger scale” May says.

Creates sound with an enormous force

May’s main instrument is a recorder and she often uses air instruments in her works.

She has previously created ‘The Flute Player’, a work where 131 recorders are activated by vacuum cleaners and electric pumps, and ‘Music for Children’ –which is a 2,6 meter giant recorder whose fundamental tone is the low C – about the lowest a male voice can go.

She remembers when she as a child sang in a choir, stood beside the organ, and suddenly felt the force of multiple pipes being played at once:

“Wind and air can create sound with an enormous force and I find that fascinating. But at the same time it is also just a basic thing to us humans. When we speak, we use air.” Aoelian Pavillion is the first work where May works with strings.

Random wind

In the work ‘Vindspejlet’ from 2017, May together with artist Ea Borre also used the wind to activate a 5 meter tall sound sculpture at Ofelia Plads in Copenhagen.

Both works thematize wind and make something otherwise invisible visible to the audience, but they are also quite different.

Vindspejlet used electricity, microphones and speakers and moreover, it was designed in a way that gave the two artists more control of the sound.

In the piece for Struer Tracks, May has created a structure where new things can occur.

“The piece at Struer Tracks is more random. It is more about creating a potential space where things can occur rather than creating a specific sound,” she concludes.

 

 

 

Ragnhild May works with sound art, performance, sculpture and installation. Through her artistic practice, she examines overlooked acoustic phenomena and their effect on the human sensory system. The boundaries between artificial and natural, human and machine, materiality and immateriality, work and tools get blurred. Ragnhild's method is exploratory, humorous and playful. She uses music theory, feminist thinking, computer technology and physics in the creation of her works.

Struer Tracks is an international biennial of sound art that takes place in the urban space of the Danish town, Struer. The biennial will take place for the third time from August 20 to September 5th 2021 - The theme is "Landscapes of Sound" and is curated by Charlotte Bagger Brandt