Sound installation set to test the attention span

PIC: James Hardisty
PIC: James Hardisty
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The Humber Bridge is many things to many people. To some it’s an iconic feat of British engineering. To others it’s simply part of their daily commute. Come next month it will also become a giant musical instrument.

While opening on April 1 it’s in danger of being dismissed as one giant joke, the project is in fact Opera North’s serious contribution to Hull’s UK City of Culture programme.

Featuring the Chorus and Orchestra of the Leeds-based company, those lucky enough to have tickets will walk across the bridge while listening to original music through headphones.

The piece has been composed by the Norwegian trumpeter and contemporary jazz musician Arve Henriksen, electronic musician Jan Bang, guitarist Eivind Aarset and features recordings made at the Humber Bridge itself by Hull-based sound artist Jez Riley French.

“We began by listening to the sounds of the cars moving across the bridge above our heads,” says Bang. “Then Jez took some beautiful recordings of the cables resonating, which sounds like an orchestra itself.

“ We have just followed the natural environment of the bridge and its surroundings. It’s not just a normal sound walk, and it’s not just a normal piece of music. It’s interactive, so when you pass certain points it will trigger certain musical fragments or a poem or the sound of a voice of a pupil from Bude Park Primary.”

The Height of the Reeds explores the bridge’s significance as both a symbol of Hull and of travel and tickets for the timed walks across the bridge’s 2,220-metre span sold out within 48 hours.

“I hope that audience members, walking across the bridge with a headset, will be inspired by it,” says Henriksen. “If this could be a starting point for the audience to be more aware that every day you are surrounded by so many sounds, and that a bridge, even a bridge, can make music, that’s lovely.”

For full details of the current programme for Hull City of Culture 2017 go to

Technical details: Nikon D4 camera with a Nikon 12-24mm lens, exposure of 1/500th sec @ f/5.6 ISO 400.