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Science
Playing The Wind
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Robert Valkenburgh plays the wind and reflects on an ancient art.
Sunday 14 December 2003 14.45-15.00
Repeated Thursday 1 January 2004 05.45-06.00

On a wind-swept German beach a man is harnessed to one end of 150 feet of Nylon line with the other end tied to an iron post. At his side are two tall wooden boxes with the curves of an aircraft wing, and the strings of a giant guitar. A violin bow is raised above his head, and the air is singing with the most ethereal of sounds. Robert Valkenburgh is Playing the Wind

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Robert Valkenburgh is one of a growing number of people who are rediscovering a form of music over 2000 years old - Aeolian Music - music created by the wind.  Aeolus was the Greek god of wind, and the first Aoelian harp is reputed to have been a discarded ancient Greek lyre flung into a tree that began to sing in the wind.

Wind harps were popular in the romantic era in both Britain and Germany. But the latest revival of this extraordinary and elemental music has been amongst the kite enthusiasts and experimental musicians.

Playing the Wind began with a chance meeting at the Bristol International Kite Festival. Amidst the spectacle of huge and extraordinarily-shaped coloured kites, Radio 4 producer, Grant Sonnex, found a man sitting quietly in the corner of the field listening intently on a pair of headphones. He was surrounded by a small group of what looked like convoluted weathervanes and tall, thin wooden boxes. But all of these objects were strung with nylon lines and stretched ribbons, and they hummed, wailed, and sung in the wind.  A year later Grant and Robert met up again to travel to a wind-swept beach in northern Germany where Robert and a group of wind music enthusiasts were recording a performance on his Aoelian harps.

You can hear what Robert’s instruments sound like, and what inspires a man to build and perform on them in Playing the Wind.
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