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The Wave Organ’ of San Francisco


The Wave Organ was built in 1968 in the breakwater of San Francisco Bay. Just like the Sea Organ in Croatia, this organ was created with the purpose of luring people to the sea to listen to its voices. The artist, Peter Richards, in collaboration with Exploratorium, created this acoustic sculpture that cavernously amplifies the sounds of the waves.

The very dock where it is located was taken from a demolished cemetery, so that it is marvelously built with a combination of granite and marble, which was also used to build the organ. The installation includes 25 organ pipes made of PVC and concrete that are spread out throughout the construction in order to allow for the passing of the tides. The sound is produced by the impact of the waves against the sides of the pipes and the subsequent movement of water on the inside and the outside of the pipes.

The sounds that can be heard there are subtle, airy and liquid, they make their way up and down deeply enrooted pipes of the place. Because of this, the sounds are able to move the visitors with their music and make them aware of the rhythms of everything that surrounds them: the wind, trees, waves. In the Wave Organ, the air columns within the pipes change constantly while the water goes in and out; when the length and the volume of the air in each column changes, the tone of the sounds also varies: the longer the volume of the air, the lower the tone. High tide for example, is the best moment to visit. You can keep track of San Francisco’s tides here.

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