BLINK is back and brighter than ever, lighting up Greater Cincinnati once again and this year, Northern Kentucky is getting in on the action, thanks to Brave Berlin, MASARY, Vincent Lighting, and the Roebling Bridge.
“When we knew we were going to link Covington, we thought this would be the perfect metaphor,” says Dan Reynolds, one of the braintrust duo, along with Steve McGowan, behind Brave Berlin, the creative agency working as co-artists with Boston group MASARY to make the Roebling Bridge come to life.
“We wanted to do an audio piece that played with the nickname of ‘the singing bridge,’” he says. “We thought this could actually be the jewel in the piece that was visible from both sides of the river.”
Opened for buggy and foot traffic in 1866, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge was designed by its namesake, John A. Roebling, who went on to design the more widely known Brooklyn Bridge. The Roebling served as the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge, but its most distinctive and uniquely Cincinnati-Covington feature is its ability to “sing” – a humming sound that is created by vehicle tires driving over the grated deck.
Giving the Roebling’s existing “song” the full BLINK treatment meant the Brave Berlin team needed to flesh it out. They enlisted MASARY, a trio of Boston-based composers and artists who specialize in bringing natural and built environments to life through live music performance and video mapping projection.
“Our process for treating the bridge, bringing it to life, has been to visit it…sampling and recording the sounds of the bridge, of cars going over the bridge, sounds of the park and banks on either side,” says Ryan Edwards of MASARY.
“That starts our sound work, our investigation into, ‘What does this bridge want to say? What does it sound like?’ And also as a pedestrian, what do you imagine it sounds like? We try to occupy that space between all those different perspectives.”
To flesh that out further, Vincent Lighting Systems, a local lighting company, was also brought on board to render the physical animation of the bridge.
“That consists of almost a thousand lighting fixtures, across the bridge. Each one of these fixtures is actually mapped, so we can give it commands that are intentionally scripted with our musical score,” says Edwards.
Finkelmeier agrees with that intentionality.
“[Ryan and I have] talked very deeply about this bridge, and investigated it’s architecture and studied how many trusses there are and looked at the cabling, and looked at this beautiful art it creates as it suspends over the Ohio River,” she says. “For us, as percussionists, we see these bass notes in the towers, they’re big, bold, foundational and grounding. Then we see harp strings, and piano, and different eighth notes.”
The music is full of conversation between the Kentucky side and the Ohio side of the bridge, with elements and lights that go left to right and vice versa, and up and down. For 30 minutes, the bridge will be in more of a passive state, before transitioning into the 30-minute, hyper-synchronized light-and-sound experience.
“It’s a spectrum of color. It has always been our dream to turn the Roebling Bridge into a massive moment of shared art. A symbolic gesture of connectivity and harmony within our region and the world. It is a gift really to be able to work with the creative partners that we have assembled for this project. Individually we bring something quite unique to the project. Together we are a passionate force that sees this experience as a way to celebrate humanity.” says McGowan.
That should be music to all BLINK visitors’ ears.
For more on the behind-the-scenes action, head to www.masarystudios.com.
Special thanks to the generosity of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation for making this installation possible.
Written by Leyla Shokoohe