how can i get molten iron to produce slightly musical sound?
June 25, 2010 5:56 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to find ways that molten iron could produce sound, and hopefully musical sound. things could be added to the molten iron, or effected by the heat it produces does anyone have any idea's?
posted by frequently to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No ideas offhand, but these folks do an Iron Pour fundraiser - you could contact them and see if they have any experience.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:12 AM on June 25, 2010

Could you give a bit more context? In particular, why molten iron?

The reason I ask is, molten iron is hot and heavy and difficult to generate and, like all most molten metals, really dangerous. (The best thing I can imagine is a small crucible of thermite, although if you intend to add more material you'd probably want some way to maintaining temperature.) If there's an easier way to accomplish what you want, that'd be a win all around.

Would you be interested in tin?
posted by d. z. wang at 6:14 AM on June 25, 2010

Response by poster: basically there will be a lot of molten iron involved. this is not a DIY situation, the people in charge of the molten iron are pro's

I have been looking at making some configuration of Rijke tubes ( )

but there is the problem of where you get the cool air from?

I would prefer not to use small animals.

Is there a type of string, or spring metal that expands or contracts a large amount near heat?

or some other way to use heat and air to create sound?
posted by frequently at 6:24 AM on June 25, 2010

Steel Yard fundraisers are done by The Iron Guild - they'd probably be good folks to ask. They have a YouTube channel.
posted by zamboni at 6:25 AM on June 25, 2010

I wonder if you could rig a reverse Rijke tube, with an externally cooled element.
posted by zamboni at 6:32 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Assuming that a casting is going to be poured from the molten iron then you could place whistles over the vent holes of the mold. Air will escape as the mold is filled with the molten metal and could be used for that purpose. Depending on how big the casting is you may only have a limited supply of escaping air.
posted by JJ86 at 7:24 AM on June 25, 2010

Ask Savage Aural Hotbed -- if they haven't already done it, I'm sure they have pondered the question.
posted by omnidrew at 8:02 AM on June 25, 2010

You could use the molten iron as a movable element in a speaker - basically like a speaker diaphragm. Drive it with an electromagnet like the diaphragm in a conventional speaker. Warning, this is probably hard to do, expensive to do right, and potentially dangerous.
posted by pombe at 8:03 AM on June 25, 2010

Best answer: One problem with using the vent holes to make a whistle is that it's over so quickly - if frequency is looking at performance art, the moment of the pour is a really busy one already, so the best impact of the music can be kicked off by that moment of visual/audio/technical distraction, but the musical score would kind of need to continue past that... but what a kick-off!
That's what makes the Rijke tubes so cool (if I understand htem right), the main sound would be on the cooldown. (You did notice that the article you linked said you could get the same effect from hot air and a cold mesh?)

Maybe you could use the convection of the hot air coming off afterwards to drive a (windmill/fan/whirly-thing) and have that rotation drive a sound-source? Like little percussive hammers tapping chimes as they pass - charming! (okay, not that, but maybe it would inspire something else)

I know a cast-iron artist who did a performance piece involving pouring long tubes of iron (think sculptural giant pan-pipes) then cracking the mold off, and whacking the ends of the tubes like a multi-tuned drum set, while they were still glowing hot - but the heat was just a visual detail, not an audible one, as I understand (I wasn't there for the performance).
posted by aimedwander at 8:03 AM on June 25, 2010

I LOVE this idea. I was lucky enough to participate as a guest musician at a Steel Sculpture Festival in Taiwan a few years ago. About 20 international steel sculptors worked for a week in an open arena, creating their pieces before the eyes of the festival-goers to be displayed around the city during the following year.

Our steel drum band performed a few nights in a row, and after a special performance & demonstration for the artists one evening, they all went back to their works and started banging and clanging on them! Awesome!

Nobody had anything molten though. Please post a follow-up link when you get this going so we can see how it turned out for you!
posted by Aquaman at 9:39 AM on June 25, 2010

Maybe you could use the convection of the hot air coming off afterwards to drive a (windmill/fan/whirly-thing) and have that rotation drive a sound-source? Like little percussive hammers tapping chimes as they pass - charming! (okay, not that, but maybe it would inspire something else)

I was going to suggest the same thing, only with a music box styled drum and a steel comb playing the notes.

Alternatively, if you can use the molten metal as a heat source, you could suspend a kettle over it with water and then you have steam as a power source and your options become pretty limitless.
posted by quin at 9:57 AM on June 25, 2010

Response by poster: thanks for all the great answers

i will post a follow up link when it's possible
posted by frequently at 12:30 PM on June 25, 2010

I for one would love to know what an old piano would sound like with molten lead poured into. Not sure how to do that safely though.
posted by alikins at 12:31 PM on June 25, 2010

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