Playing the Golden Gate Bridge like a ‘musical instrument’ was the inspiration behind Michael Phillips, Doug McKechnie and Arnie Lazarus stealing onto the Bridge around midnight in the Summer of 1975 and capturing the sounds of the bridge with Arnie’s new invention, the FRAP: Flat Response Audio Pickup. Their dream to “play the bridge” was inspired by the cover of the first issue of Musicworks Magazine featuring artist David Wills’ drawing of an alien robot plucking the bridge cables like a harp. After being chased off the bridge by the police, the crew negotiated a deal with the authorities and two weeks later leased the Golden Gate Bridge for $13.50 an hour. Between 2AM and 4 AM on August 5, 1975 they recorded the sounds of the vertical cables, guard rails, light posts, the towers and the main suspension cable with a wooden mallet.
Twelve-years later McKechnie gathered ‘The San Francisco Synthesizer Ensemble’ together to complete the dream to ‘play the bridge as a musical instrument’ and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1987. One of the ensemble, Paul J. de Benedictis, worked in Silicon Valley at Opcode Systems, a leading music software company, and had ties to other key music technology developers including EMU Systems, the inventors of the EMAX sampling keyboard, and Digidesign, the creators of Sound Designer audio software for editing digital sounds on the Apple Macintosh Computer. Utilizing Digidesign’s editing software, the EMAX’s capability to play sampled sounds from the keyboard, and Opcode Systems’s MIDI sequencer recording software, each musician in the band composed a piece of music inspired by the bridge, some pieces using the “sounds of the bridge itself.” The San Francisco Synthesizer Ensemble was able to play the bridge as a musical instrument, creating their Anniversary Suite for the Bridge’s 50th Birthday on May 27th, 1987.
The 50th Anniversary musical suite consists of “The Golden Gate Before the Bridge” by Doug McKechnie, “The Building of the Bridge” by Paul J. de Benedictis, “The Opening of the Bridge” by John Lewis, and “The Present into the Future” by Scott Singer. The CD showcases the original Suite as well as the actual ‘Sounds of the Golden Gate Bridge’ that were recorded in 1986, some of the original recording from 1975, and the ‘environmental ambience’ of the ocean and foghorns around the bridge. The re-issued CD was co-produced by McKechnie and de Benedictis, and is available on McKechnie Records. This remastered reissue CD is dedicated to the memory of Scott Singer.