Can you make music with ship horns? For over 10 years
I build an installation consisting of more than 100 real ship horns and working on the musical development of
is a game with the vastness of the landscape. Echoes and long maturities
of the notes will be at the concert became an important musical
instrument. The tools must of course be strong signal. Ship horns
and air raid sirens are such long-range signal. After extensive
re-building it will be the instruments. The concert will take place
simultaneously at several places. The compositions are adapted to
the large distances. It always results in a large room the sound
of the audience by changing their resort, can even hike itself.
"The music truly changes when one moves from one place to another. The emphasis of the
sound moves to the sound-producing instrument which one is currently approaching. Also very
succinct echoes are made from the penetrating sound of the ship's horn. They form an
independent layer of composition which furthermore causes the sound to be carried far and wide.
The sound space which Christof Schläger opens up with his concert covers several square
Some realized projects show the opportunities of the Urban Horn Concert:
>> Fog Horn (World Minimal Festival; Urban Horns in harbour of Amsterdam)
>> SchichtWechsel (ExtraSchicht at UNESCO world heritage Zollverein)
>> URHO & Urban Horns (Helsinki
Festival; Urban Horns with icebreaker/seven ballons/two choirs in harbour of Helsinki))
>> Schwingungen (RUHR 2010; choreography with cement pumps)
>> Ausklang (KA300 at Karlsruhe Palace with light- und fireshow)
>> Gegen den Strom (Audio Art Festival Krakau; choreography with two schips)
>> Magic Square (World Music Days Shanghai; urban hornconcert between skyscrapers)
There are two groups, consisting of sixteen
rectangular pipes, each of which are served by avalve-block. The compressed air is released
through a nozzle into the open pipe. The overtones can be achieved by subtle variations in
air pressure and direction. A compressor serves as a wind machine.
Materials: rectangular pipes, nozzles, valve island Weight: 30 kg Dimensions: width 200cm [=6,6 ft.] x length 140cm [=4.6 ft.] x height 120cm [=3.9 ft.]
A horn group consists of 64 horns, small,
modified ship’s horns. 32 horns have copper bells whose sound color is reminiscent of trumpets.
Each wind machine is powered by a portable air compressor of the type used in road construction
with a minimum pressure of 7 bar or 100 psi (pounds per square inch) and an air flow capacity
of 1.000 to 2000 CFM (cubic feet per minute), These units have an operating dBA as low as 64 db
which significantly reduces the incidence of unwanted noise. The ship’s horns are tuned diatonically
and are controlled by a computer.
Materials: steel, copper Weight: Dimensions: length 220cm [=7.2 feet] x width 80cm [=2.6 feet] x height 140cm [=4.6 feet]
A horn group consists of 64 horns,
small, modified ship’s horns. 32 horns have glass fiber and synthetic resin bells whose
sound color is reminiscent of English horns. The ship’s horns are tuned diatonically
and are controlled by a computer.
Materials: steel, copper, glass fiber synthetic Weight: 150 kg Dimensions: height 400cm [=13.1 ft.] x width 200cm [=6.6 ft.]
The development of the sound generator
for the Helix Horns took several attempts, the last and best solution was the “Zetfon,”
the sound generator for a classic ship’s horn produced by the Zöllner Company and which
was adapted for the Helix Horn.
There are eight Helix Horns in different sizes and fundamental notes, each fitted with its
own electrical pneumatic sound generator. A specially constructed MIDI-control allows each
Helix Horn to play several notes and their overtones.
Materials: steel sheets which galvanized in a silvery sheen Weight: Dimensions: several sizes; the more slender design is 3.50 meters [11.5 ft.]
high, has a total length of 12 meters and weighs only 110 kg.
BILD: composition and
„This music has a three-dimensional nature, through the fact that the sounds reach the listener from several
directions. The delicately woven timbres that develop in the exterior spaces spread as an acoustic ambiance
over the landscape and form an interactive relationship with other sounds and noises that are integral to
Christof Schläger works with simple structures, traditional composition techniques. For example, staggered
repetitions as in the fugue or meshed rhythms as in the 'minimal music'. With refined variations and with
the interconnection of both instruments Christof Schläger creates a musical structure with many voices.
Through the echo effects of the landscape the piece becomes a complex 3-dimensional structure.
The musical events interlock according to a compositional plan. How exactly this happens depends not
only on the score, but also on the physics.
BILD: controlling the orchestra
„The horns are industrially standardized products for shipping traffic. Christof Schläger adapted
the horns by alterations in order to be able to use them musically. Now you can play a chromatic
scale on them."
Construction of instruments
One instrument consists of 32 tonal airpressure horns. There are four groups of 16 horns assembled on
a 5 m [=16.4 feet] high lifting tower. In the construction is the electronic and pneumatic controll unit. The whole
instrument will be controlled by a extra notebook. The musician can start and supervise the composition,
which is saved in the notebook. To drive the whole installation are some technical requirements needful:
Power for the Notebook and electronic: 230 Volt AC (minimal 6 Amp. sine wave if from a generator)
Compressor for the horns: Portable compressor (driven by diesel) important: super silent.
Data: min. 7 bar and a volume of min.1000 liter per minute or more
Controlling the orchestra
In order to play these machines, Schläger initially used an industrial control system by Klöckner Möller,
which is still in use for the regulation of waterworks, railways, and traffic lights. However, this method
of programming proved to be cumbersome, he therefore decided to apply the data transfer protocol MIDI
(musical instrument digital interface) which offered him much more convenient options. However, it is
necessary to interpose a laptop with sequencers, compositional and notation programs between the two.
With MIDI the programming of the operations of motors and magnetic pickups is enabled.
Although the sound machines are then ready for use in performances and in installations, they are not
considered completed, rather they are subject to an ongoing process of modification, a constant fine-tuning
and adjustment of their sound characteristics.
2011, Deutschlandfunk, Atelier Neuer Musik Klänge, die über Wasser Schweben language: german
2007, Deutschlandfunk Hornkonzert am Kanal language: german