1. ITV Report

Musical mill: how it works

An artist's impression of the 'singing mill' Photo: Arts Council England

A black air bag puffs, an industrious cauldron bubbles and some salt jars begin to moan. It looks like a beach hut berthed up on Tyne, but inside is a very strange party.

The musical mill is 'Flow', a £500,000 Art Council England commission in association with the cultural side of the Olympic Games.

The creators wanted to use the Tyne as both a source of power in the installation, and in making the music itself. Here is how it works:

  • First, obviously, the tide comes in and out.
  • The giant water wheel spins
  • The wheel is attached to a dynamo which charges a battery, and keeps the electricity when the wheel is not moving
  • This electricity is used to make a conveyor belt of wooden arms move up and down
  • On the end of the arms are electronic sensors that dip into pots of water samples
  • Each pot has different levels of salt, which control the instruments pitch
  • The public can then change the duration of the note, using a synthesizer

Its doors have now been opened and people have had the chance to twizzle, press, push and twist their way around its dials.

It will stay open for six months, after which the makers hope they can find another home for it.