There's nothing better than relaxing seaside, especially in a city like San Fransisco. Whether it's in the form of a lunch break while enjoying the city's incredible seafood or pausing for a moment of quiet reflection at the end of the day, the San Fransisco Bay is the perfect place to do it. What we're interested in, though, isn't at the shoreline or even in the immediate area of the San Francisco Bay - it's smack dab in the middle of it.
The Wave Organ, as it's known, was created with the intent to amplify the sounds of the waves in the bay. This beautiful creation has served its purpose wonderfully, allowing visitors to the San Francisco Bay area to literally hear the sounds that the frequencies of the waves make in the form of organ music. Albeit eerily beautiful, it's an instrument that's one of a kind and absolutely comes to life at high tide.
Who Created The Wave Organ, And Why?
The organ itself was first built in 1986 by an artist named Peter Richards. By creating this stone organ, it was believed that the acoustics - if carved correctly - could serve to amplify the sounds of the waves.
Thus, a type of music could be hurt when water flowed through and past its openings. In theory, this was to be somewhat of a self-playing organ and, as luck would have it, it worked - music can still be heard throughout the coastline today if the tide conditions are exactly right.
How Is It Possible That Something Like This Plays 'Music'?
Don't be misled - the Wave Organ sounds nothing like what most people think of when it comes to organ music. Rather, the sound that's bounced back is akin to being underwater and hearing the waves slosh overhead; muffled and full of bass, but mysteries and alluring all the same.
The acoustics of this organ are what makes it so incredible, and what's even more fascinating is the material that it's constructed from. Richards used carved granite and marble that came from a cemetery that was demolished, along with a slew of PVC pipes and concrete pipes that extend down into the water. The organ could be considered an upcycle project thanks to all of the pieces that were reused, further enhancing the mystery and intrigue surrounding it.
The sound that reverberates back is purely liquid in nature and the tones of the water ebbing and flowing are evident. The varying height levels of the pipes, as well as the way in which they hit the concrete differently, are responsible for the variety in the 'music' that can be heard at different times throughout the day. Comparatively, the sound that you hear when standing or sitting in the center of the organ is similar to what one might hear when holding a conch shell up to their ear. There's one more factor when it comes to hearing the music played by the Wave Organ, though: Air. The varying airflow over the surface of the San Francisco Bay also helps to add variety to the music that's played. This also accounts for longer or shorter 'notes,' and the pitch is constantly changing due to the humidity levels, wind strength, and other weather conditions. Therefore, the organ music differs each time one visits it.
Visiting The Wave Organ
Believe it or not, you can visit the Wave Organ and you can get close enough to hear its music first-hand. Thanks to the smart construction of this instrument on the jetty that extends out into the San Francisco Bay, those interested can walk down to the end of the jetty and sit down at any one of its concrete benches to relax and take in the natural soundtrack. While the end of the jetty itself is quite separated and remote from the rest of San Francisco, getting there is very easy, and it's not likely you'll be the only one heading out to the end of this pathway. The views from the Wave Organ are fantastic, as well; the Marina District, city skyline, and Golden Gate Bridge are all within viewing distance of the jetty.
What To Know Before Visiting The Wave Organ
- Cost: Free, it's a public park
- Tip: Fishermen are often the only ones at the jetty early in the morning.
- Best Time to Visit: During high tide
- Directions: Starting on Marina Blvd., turn onto Yacht Rd. The very first parking lot is parking specifically for the Wave Organ (there will be signs). Visitors can also walk 1.8 miles from the Chrissy Field Recreational Area.