Sunday, 2 February 2014

Tap into the unusual

The scientist and composer Dr Alan Lamb has found music in one of the most unexpected of places. Back in 1976 he embarked upon a long car trip across Australia. After many hours of travelling he felt tired, so he parked his car and after resting for a while he fell asleep. Sometime later he was woken by a strange sound he had never heard before. The wind was playing through the telegraph wires that were immediately above his car, causing them to vibrate and emit hauntingly beautiful, almost musical tones. Dr Lamb was intrigued by these sounds, both as a scientist and as a musician. He has subsequently devoted a significant part of his life to investigating how they are created and to finding ways of incorporating them into musical compositions.

Over the last thirty-five years Dr Lamb and his colleagues have recorded and manipulated sounds from ‘the wires’, even creating their own wire installations or ‘wind organs’ from which they can harvest the auditory raw materials for ever more interesting and unique musical compositions. These wind organs have been given names and have become works of art in their own right. They have been installed and listened to at festivals and other events throughout Australia and beyond. A particularly note-worthy commission came from the Japanese Government, which asked for a wind organ installation to be built as part of the celebrations marking the opening of a major research facility, the ‘SPring8 Electron Synchrotron’. The music has also found its way into the mainstream of film sound tracks, being used in films such as ‘Wolf Creek’ and ‘Little Fish’. The sounds created by Dr Lamb’s wind organs were also the inspiration behind the laser gun effects used in the Star Wars films.

Some of the compositions created from the sounds emitted by wind organs have even become a national music of protest, giving voice to the strong feelings of anger many people feel about the damage large scale mining operations are causing to the ancient Australian landscape.

Opening the mind to the possibilities of the unusual and exploring them with enthusiasm is one of the major traits of creative people. The next time you come across something unusual, or someone presents an idea or point of view that seems eccentric or surprising, suppress your judgement and your urge to criticise or even dismiss it. Give it time and open your mind to its possibilities. Tap into the enthusiasm of the person presenting the idea and do your best to feel the resonance it has for them. Try to perceive it through their eyes and ears.

As you begin to tap into the resonating wires of their thoughts you may begin to hear the music of their inspiration for yourself. You may even find yourself, as Dr Alan Lamb did, embarking upon a journey that becomes ever more intriguing the further you travel and the more you pause to explore the landscape you encounter.

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