Æolian Art

Tonight, in Brooklyn, at Third Ward, there is an inflatable sculpture show. Inflatable sculpture is a lot like an Aeolian harp. Thoreau talked a lot about Aeolian harps. He loved Aeolian harps. The transcendentalists all seemed to love Aeolian harps, in fact. The Aeolian harp--the instrument of the god Æolus, god of wind--is a harp of just a few strings that makes sounds as a result of wind. Often, the Aeolian harp was placed in a window, the way we would fit a small air conditioner in a window today, and the wind running through the window would vibrate the strings, which were tuned, which would in turn vibrate the wooden base, which would in turn vibrate into the wall of the house, the wind making music with the house, the house a musical instrument. Thoreau liked to joke about how the telegraph wire running through the woods around Walden Pond was like a giant Aeolian harp. Here is another version of an Aeolian harp, using the wind of the subway to charge the art with life, or our street life with art:

The challenge that Thoreau sets in Walden is to figure out how to make your self into an Aeolian harp, rather than just an airconditioner. From Walden: There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still. There was never yet such a storm but it was Æolian music to a healthy and innocent ear.