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Nature plays new-wave music in San Francisco

By William Hageman, Tribune Newspapers

7:24 PM EDT, March 12, 2013

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SAN FRANCISCO — Tucked away in the Marina District, on a spit of land jutting into San Francisco Bay, lies one of this city's hidden treasures.

The Wave Organ is an acoustic sculpture that brings the bay's waves and tides to life. Built around a series of 25 submerged PVC tubes encased in concrete, it bubbles, gurgles and resonates at nature's

whim.

"As an artist, I'd been thinking of the dynamics of San Francisco Bay for a number of years," said Peter Richards, a senior artist emeritus at the Exploratorium science museum who created the work in 1986 in collaboration with sculptor George Gonzales. "I did work on tides, wind and wave action, and I just kind of fell into thinking about sound as well, because sound is certainly a product of winds and waves."

Surrounding the mostly hidden tubes are granite and carved marble reclaimed from a demolished cemetery. Visitors can sit on benches or stairs and listen. The sound is peaceful, musical, gentle.

"I like to say the sound you hear is the result of the relationship of the moon to the Earth, which creates the tides, and the moon, Earth and sun, which creates the seasons and the weather," said Richards (peterrichardsart.com).

"So it's a combination of weather, which is winds, of course, tides, how high or low the water is, and the currents, which are created by the tides. I always tell people before they go out to make sure it's a high tide."

To find the Wave Organ from the intersection of Marina Boulevard and Mason Street, look north to Yacht Road. Walk along the blacktop road, past the St. Francis and Golden Gate yacht clubs. After a quarter-mile, you're there.