Tidal tunes have a timber timbre as art trio make (sound) waves

Composer Frances Shelley, sound artist Matthew Bickerton and sculptor Pauline Bickerton with their S

Composer Frances Shelley, sound artist Matthew Bickerton and sculptor Pauline Bickerton with their Sea Trees art project on Aldeburgh beach

Anywhere else it might look out of the ordinary – but the sight of a baby grand piano marooned on the seashore is somewhat suited to Aldeburgh.

Famed for its artistic inclination, the town today begins hosting its annual three-day carnival – and among the attractions is an unusual art project fusing music, sculpture and the natural world.

Composer Frances Shelley, sound artist Matthew Bickerton and sculptor Pauline Bickerton have been making waves on Aldeburgh beach as part of their five-day Sea Trees residency, which explores what happens when a natural force like the sea becomes part of an ensemble.

Mesh trees have been planted on the shore outside Caroline Wiseman’s Aldeburgh Beach Lookout art space, where the changing tones of the floating sculptures are wirelessly transmitted into a computer and melded with recordings of real tree rustles to generate a live soundscape – responded to by Frances Shelley’s compositions, played on a specially made, solar powered, electric baby grand piano.

“I’ve found improvising along to the soundscape really interesting,” she said. “One can go with the flow. It’s something a bit different.”


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The trio met through residencies at The Lookout last year, when Mr and Mrs Bickerton were behind a project which invited people to sit in two huge armchairs fitted with headphones, and to contemplate the sea and exchange thoughts.

Mrs Bickerton said: “People have been attracted to the trees because they look almost invisible. They come running across the beach to see what they are.

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“Because they move in the wind, they generate this wonderful sound art. We’re so pleased that everyone is excited about it.”

Mr Bickerton added: “I use quite a hi-tech inertial measurement unit at the top of one of the trees. It links back to my computer, which has a synthesiser, and the movement of the trees generates the soundscape.”

People can listen to the sound of the trees during headphone concerts from 10am today, tomorrow and on Monday. A free live concert with piano accompaniment takes place each evening at 6.30pm.

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