A wind-powered sonic structure by Neon at Chester Roman Fort evokes the ghosts of charging horses
‘Cavalry 360°’ is a temporary installation at Chester Roman Fort that harnesses the wind to create an ‘equine soundscape’, evoking the sound of the cavalry moving across the landscape. The preserved walls of the fort – the most extensive in Britain – are in a tranquil landscape flanking the wide North Tyne, but 1,600 years ago it was teeming with life as 500 men and horses lived within its rectangular footprint.
Cavalry 360° is designed by NEON and commissioned by English Heritage as part of this summer’s Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition across the Roman wall. The structure, 3.5m high by 12m across, allows visitors to step into the work and look out through framed views of the fort and landscape. The circular form creates an experience much like being in a room in which the soundscape is constantly altering in direction and rhythm, and the experience is intended to remind how horses changed the ability to travel further and faster than ever before.
The mechanism converts a rotational wind-powered motion into the sound of horse’s hooves using ‘beaters’ that are flicked rhythmically against wooden blocks. With increasing wind speed, a trot becomes a gallop, and a change in wind direction shifts the source of the sound. The instrument comprises 32 frames, each with a wind turbine and 15 beaters. Each of the 500 beaters represents a single horse. The frames are paired to represent a ‘turma’ of 30 horses. Each turbine has three arms, each with a large cup so the rotating motion suggests the movement of horses hooves.
Cavalry 360° is open until 5th November, and the Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibitions, at ten museums and heritage attractions across the length of Hadrian’s Wall, run until 10 September.