SF's wave-activated organ plays sounds of the sea

ByChris Bollini Localish logo
Tuesday, August 30, 2022
Wave Organ plays the sounds of the sea
The Wave Organ, a wave-activated acoustic sculpture, delights visitors from around the world -- playing music described as "otherworldly and ethereal."

SAN FRANCISCO -- On a jetty in San Francisco's Marina District, visitors can see iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the downtown, and Pacific Heights. They can also listen to sounds of the sea made by the one-of-a-kind Wave Organ.

"The Wave Organ is a wave-activated musical instrument," creator Peter Richards shares. "I consider this place a work of public art."

"I've never seen anything else like this, and I travel all around the world all the time," visitor Jen declares.

The Wave Organ, constructed with granite and marble taken from a demolished cemetery, includes 25 PVC and concrete pipes placed at various elevations.

"The Wave Organ responds to the waves at the high tide," Richards explains. "Waves are moving up the pipe. The air column is getting shorter and the pitches go up. And then as they pull back out, the pitch goes down."

Completed in May 1986 by creator Peter Richards and master stonemason George Gonzalez, the organ plays music described as "otherworldly and ethereal."

"I'd call it a sound garden. It's not sexy, but that's what it is," Richards reveals. "It's a place to come listen and pick out the different sounds."

"It was something new that we've never experienced, so it was really cool just to hear what sound this organ made," Jen says.

"It's amazing that it's been 40 years since this thing was installed, it's still here, it's still viable," Richards says. "And it's going to be here for a long time."

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