Wednesday, October 15, 2014

So Soon a Patina Dulls the Light

New public art by Robert Adams at SE corner of Scottsdale and Camelback Roads, now with falling water

part 2 of "We are Strangers When We Fall"

The sound made by water falling on these suspended copper hemispheres surprised me with its muted, subtle, susurration. No bell tones, no metallic ringing whatsoever, only the combined flow of streams falling through rectangles cut in the plate above them, controlling the direction and volume for best effect with the hemispheres.

A patina begins to dull the light

There will be lights shining behind panels here at night soon, if not tonight. I caught them under clouds, though, near dusk, catching the sound of falling water as I crossed Scottsdale Road, then crossed back to have a closer look, and listen.

It's possible, though I don't know if this was actually the plan, that water falling through just one of the rectangular holes onto just one of the copper hemispheres might make a pinging or ringing sound, but that the phases and timbre and tone of all the combinations happening here, on all these different sizes, run together like rain into a tuned chorus of ssshhhhhhhh.

Also there right behind them in the photos and in the soundscape is the traffic. They sing together, the engines and wheels on pavement against the falling of this water, and though I much prefer one to the other, in this place both are there, and together it's not unpleasant. As light is also part of this art when the panels are lit, the clouds at the moment of my visit might appropriately be contrasted with the blazing sunshine of my first visit in the link at the top of this post, as well as with the morning sky on my commute:

Morning commute sky

There's a bench just there in front of the water to sit for a moment or two, and look, and listen. The sound of water falling is both duller and richer than I imagined it would be. Less distinct, broader, more natural while carefully tuned. In a place where the sun can be so bright, the light playing off the copper patina is also carefully dulled and controlled, while on a moonless, cold, cloudless December night I imagine those panels will glow on the rippling black water of the canal in some shadow form of a mirror that looks like something it's not, momentarily brightened against the sound of water with no traffic nearby.

And in the back of my mind while I sit on the bench with my bicycle leaning against it, I will be thinking that new things like this just-installed public art remind me of the passage of time and aging as much as the old ones do. In the first post, I wrote about differences and strangers, backgrounds and cultural quirks, but these drops now are whispering to me about time and its measurement, a drop exiting the carefully engineered rectangles falling a distance in time t of 1/2gt2, existing in its motion and sound a physical manifestation of the passage of t

We are strangers in this light because time makes us so, as when the falling drop strikes the patina of the copper and smears across it in the dulled light, and it, and we, no longer look the same. Drop by drop, day by day, the patina intensifies, also in a manner carefully designed by metallurgists for an intended effect. But while hydrology, acoustics, metal work, and metallurgy produced this effect here (against the din of the traffic behind it), this observer sitting on the bench is the random variable moving with his own equation with respect to t, and other variables that are my own. While I measure these changes and feel the flow of the years, remarking appropriately that so soon a patina dulls the light, I also smile at the passage, at the symphonic susurration enveloping me, noting that the light sometimes strikes the patina just so, to make it golden.


  1. It is probably as well that it isn't easy to get copper to sing or we wouldn't use it for copper piping nearly so much.

    1. Ah the mysteries and intricacies of metal alloys and sound. Be prepared to spend a day or too glued to the screen if you venture down that search route, it's both deep and weird out there.

  2. The best public art allows us to see, feel, experience something different each time it is viewed.

    1. Yes, and we cyclists and pedestrians can easily pause a moment to take it in, when the impulse or need strikes us.


Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.