Dancing about architecture? How about singing about architecture – or architecture that sings?

Burnley England’s Singing Ringing Tree is an abstract sculpture that resonates with the wind. Rising above the grassy hills of Burnley, England, it seems to live at some strange intersection between future and past – a sci-fi Stonehenge. And the project, the 2006 work of British architecture firm Tonkin Liu, makes lovely otherworldly sounds.

John Keston, sound designer and the writer of audio invention recipe blog Audiocookbook, has been making a set of “duets,” coupling more conventional electronic synthesis with the wind-blown ambiences of the SRT construction. He’s surprisingly adept at interweaving these contrasting timbres into dreamy drones, armed with a Novation Bass Station II and the new, more affordable Moog Minifooger Delay pedal.


Bless USB power – the whole thing runs on an external battery. (The Novation doesn’t have an internal battery compartment, but it can run on an outboard tank.)

The project is coming in seven parts, but I’ll let part 7 out on CDM, as I enjoy the more-exposed synth. No. 1 was released this week on his blog, and is a beautiful example of the sounds melding together.

And do put on headphones – you’ll hear why.


Duet No.1 for Synthesizer and The Singing Ringing Tree

Funding partners that made this happen — all of them, by the way, essential to supporting American musical invention:

American Composers Forum
Jerome Foundation
ACF’s JFund, which supports new music for emerging artists in Minnesota and the 5 boroughs of NYC.

(Note to Jerome: you guys should really just add Berlin as NYC’s sixth borough in which artists can still afford to live. I kid. Sort of.)

  • Michael L

    A successful synthesis of sources! I particularly liked the inclusion of wind rumble. Would be good to hear a bit about John’s compositional process (not on his site). Thank you for using your site to expose such musical innovators to those of us far away. More of them, please!

    • Keston

      Hi Michael. Thanks for the note and sorry for the late reply. The compositions were improvised. Is that an oxymoron? 😉 My compositional process was often imagining textures and phrases that would alternatively contrast or complement the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT). The term I use is phonomnesis which is described in the text Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday Sounds by Jean François Augoyard, and Henry Torgue. Essentially it means imagining sound prior to producing it. I treat the environment as an audiovisual score by experiencing the sensory stimuli and reacting sonically to it. Of course the SRT is an unpredictable musical partner so improvisation is necessary, otherwise the environment is treated as background noise instead of an integral layer in the composition. I have written a thesis on this topic that you can read here: http://johnkeston.com/news/music-with-context/