Clifton Suspension Bridge Harp

Working alongside sound artist Yas Clarke, luthier Sean Clark, the Jean Golding Institute and Bristol University’s Music Department, this is an installation which sonically represents structural data of Bristol’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The work takes the form of a robotic two-course harp resembling the Clifton Suspension Bridge in shape. The instrument is played by two independent robotic arms, each one strumming the strings of one side of the harp in response to data harvested on the north and south side of the bridge. Six streams of data are used to dictate the movement and speed of the two robotic arms (4 accelerometers and 2 displacement transducers). In this way the activity on the bridge is translated to this musical model in a very immediate way – the busier the bridge, the busier and more dynamic the music. When the bridge is quiet, so is the instrument. 

The harp is amplified with pickups on its body. Combining the six streams of data, information about traffic and wind conditions are extrapolated and used to process the acoustic sound of the instrument.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge Harp was showcased at BBC Digital Bristol Week in October 2017 reaching national media coverage on BBC Radio 3 and Point West. Later it was also installed at the events EPSRC’s Science for a Successful Nation and New Scientist Live 2018.