All aboard the ~Flow

Reporter Helen Millichamp took a trip to Newcastle last weekend to experience the new artwork built in Amble for the London Olympiad 2012.

HUGE wooden speakers emit the sounds of water as a waterwheel revolves, creating its own electricity and sound – that’s ~Flow, a new art-form on the River Tyne.

Flow at the River Tyne

Flow at the River Tyne

Commissioned by the Arts Councils for the London Olympiad, ~Flow is a collaboration between the Owl Project and Ed Carter working with boat-builder Nick Spurr and his team at Amble Boatyard as well as architect Nicky Kirk and waterwheel designer David Willcox.

Housed next to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the electro-acoustic music machinery is powered by the River Tyne.

It opened on Sunday, with a steady stream of visitors throughout the day.

Water is drawn up and passes through a series of filters, lasers and sensors which create noises.

Flow at the River Tyne

Flow at the River Tyne

A Salinity Sampler Sequence, with a wooden conveyor belt and electronic sensors makes a tune from the last 12 hours of the tide by storing and playing hourly water samples, with salt levels controlling the pitch. The Bubble Synth and overhead bellows create sounds from bubbles controlled by the chemical composition of the river and a Turbidatron generates sounds according to the turbidity or muddiness of the water.

For me it was really good, I enjoyed listening to the groans, creaks, hissing and high-pitched sounds and finding out how they were created. But it would be good to get the full experience of ~Flow, when the waterwheel is in full motion, the tide is coming in or going out. At low and high tides the waterwheel doesn’t rotate.

The BALTIC, opposite ~Flow, is also broadcasting a live stream from it at the viewing platform on Level 4.

~Flow is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm.