ronald van der meijs explores earthly sounds with burning candles in haarlem ronald van der meijs explores earthly sounds with burning candles in haarlem
jan 10, 2017

ronald van der meijs explores earthly sounds with burning candles in haarlem


for a running solo exhibition at de vishal gallery in the netherlands, dutch architect ronald van der meijs creates a site specific sound installation that evokes the majestic cathedral located in haarlem’s old city centre. yet through the design, the architect particularly pays tribute to the muller organ through a spiritual blend of candles and music.

each organ pipe has its one candle mechanism for pitching the tone



ronald van der meijs creates a meditative atmosphere through a slow and constant changing sound coming from the installation. by doing so, he reflects on the slowness and decay of the muller organ in the rapid and consumerist world of today. the candles are in fact the musicians of this sound installation, and their diversity in size slowly yet irregular transform the pitched sound of each organ pipe. in this way, the overall sound is constantly changing — which causes a rich diversity in pulsating bass rhythms.



exploring earthly sounds for nine candles  
video courtesy of ronald van der meijs



as an artist working with sound, van der meijs was curious about pitching up ultra-low bass pipe sounds in order to create a constant drone-like audio. to give an idea on the sound speed, the smallest candles need to be changed every six hours while the thickest runs more than five days. in other word, this installation requires daily care and attention. indeed, burning candles get shorter and cause a vertical movement in each mechanism. this pulls a wheel connected to a brass valve, opening it up on the front end of each organ pipe at the same speed to which the candle burns. in this way, the air column of the organ pipes gets shorter and pitches up their tone. the air pump is built in a rubber skin-covered box to kill the noise, and which blows up when the pump is starting to work —  as it is the heart of the installation. yhe pump blows an airstream into the wooden ducts, causing very low bass tones in each of organ pipe.


the artist’s solo exhibition will be running till january 22, 2017 at the de vishal art foundation in haarlem. 

the two smallest pipes are the highest in tone

three bass pipes are taken out of this complete bass register, which explains the asymmetry

the rubber skin of the air pump mechanism blows up when playing

detail of the wheels which pull the valve open on the pipes to pitch the sound

through the window, one can see the church where the installation is referring to

the longest bass pipe has a length of three meters and weights about 17 kg

the organ pipes are made of a zinc / lead alloy, which is 80 years old

parts of the installation with the insides of the pump in the back



project info:


title: exploring earthly sounds for nine candles
location: de vishal art foundation – haarlem
size: 900 x 280 x 120 cm (l x w x h)

candle sizes: 50×500 mm, 40x400mm, 35x500mm, 30x400mm, 25x400mm, 25x210mm

materials: brass, rubber, plywood, air pump, metal, spring, candles, bass organ pipes
year: december 2016
concept and production: ronald van der meijs



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

  • I like this!!! And since one idea leads to another…
    Moving some of the candle mechanisms to the mouth of the pipes will create higher pitch sounds as the candles burn.
    Or… install a pulley at the mouth of the pipes and run the string around it for the same effect. This way you can vary which pipes will produce higher or lower pitches…

    nando says:

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