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Saturday, September 19, 2020
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The Golden Gate Bridge is singing. Here's a matching...

The Golden Gate Bridge is singing. Here’s a matching playlist

An eerie new hum has some neighbors covering their ears—but adventurous listeners can dive into similar sounds.

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As many who participated in Saturday’s massive George Floyd demonstration across the Golden Gate Bridge noted, the sound of high winds passing through the the iconic landmark’s new sidewalk slats creates a mournful ringing that reverberates for miles. (As Gabe Meline of KQED puts it “The Golden Gate Bridge is now a giant orange wheezing kazoo.”)

It’s been driving some locals up the walls—though anyone who’s familiar with the name La Monte Young or has spent enough time in the presence of Tibetan singing bowls may find the sound not only soothing but familiar. The Golden Gate Bridge may have long ceased to be the world’s tallest or longest suspension bridge, but it can certainly stake a claim to the title of world’s most famous ambient musician.

For the time being, you have to travel to the bridge or pull up any number of windy, low-quality videos on YouTube or Twitter to hear this lonesome, ghostly sound. We’re still waiting for someone to create a 10-hour loop of the bridge sound for us to fall asleep to (where we control the volume, not Karl the Fog’s breezy approach) but as these five ambient tracks make clear, you don’t need a miles-long hunk of metal to create an eerie, Brobdignagian hum—just a well-honed synth or sample of guitar.

Biosphere, “Out of the Cradle”

Norwegian composer Geir Jenssen filters the sound of European folk song through acres of electronics in much the same way as the bridge filters the wind. “Out of the Cradle” departs from his usual ambient techno sound, exemplified on the 2010 masterpiece N-Plants, but is spooky enough to get under the skin.

Chihei Hatakeyama, “Requiem for Black Night and Earth Spiders II”

Hatakeyama might be the most famous name on this list, having enjoyed a surge of adulation this decade thanks to the Internet’s increased interest in Japanese ambient. However, he’s better-known for his friendly vibraphone pieces than ghostly compositions like this one, sourced from a single sample of electric guitar.

Loscil, “Absolute”

Loscil, a.k.a. Vancouver’s Scott Morgan, has actually made music about bridges before: 2004’s First Narrows, inspired by the construction of the same name in his hometown. That album masterfully approximated the way human development encroaches on nature, but to find music that really sounds like a bridge, you’ll have to go back to his spooky 1999 debut Triple Point.

Oöphoi & Tau Ceti, “Cydonia Plains”

San Francisco composer and all-around badass Pauline Oliveros pioneered the concept of “Deep Listening”—the idea that if you listen to anything the right way, be it a classical concerto or the hum of your fridge, it can be music. The late musician and critic Oöphoi, who named his ambient music publication Deep Listenings, may well have agreed with this article that his music and the bridge’s aren’t that far apart.

Sarah Davachi, “First Triad”

The first Bandcamp Friday in March of this year, when the site gave 100% of sales directly to artists, yielded a glut of incredible releases. One of the best is Horae, an EP from Canadian composer Sarah Davachi that represents the extreme of her austere, monkish style. Davachi is one of the most talented and consistent ambient artists working today, though the bridge could give her a run for her money if it keeps on singing.

Daniel Bromfield
Daniel Bromfield is a San Francisco native and arts journalist whose work has appeared in the Bay Guardian, San Francisco Magazine, Resident Advisor, and various music sites. He ran the SF Rebirth blog, documenting all-ages shows in the Bay Area, from 2010 to 2013. His work can be found at danielbromfield.com
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