Hills Hoist: a sonic exploration

Hills Hoist with JrF hydrophones attached, functioning as contact mics.

To the non-Antipodian visitors of this blog, an explanation: the Hills Hoist is an iconic feature of the Australian backyard, a rotary clothes line which is height adjustable. It has been manufactured in Adelaide, South Australia since 1945. It’s a striking presence in any backyard, and aside from being an invaluable drying apparatus it also can be used for entertaining purposes; such as the infamous Goon of Fortune, or more benignly as a shade screen or rain cover during the Australian summer and winter months (see images below.)

The hills hoist as rain shelter during winter - August 2009.
The hills hoist as rain shelter during winter – August 2009.
The Hills Hoist used as a sun shade in summer - February 2010.
The Hills Hoist used as a sun shade during summer – February 2010.

Over the past weekend I decided to explore the internal sonics of the Hills Hoist. My curiosity has been provoked some time ago when living in another house with a Hills Hoist in the backyard. When washing was hung from the line and the wind entered the backyard, the wind would occasionally catch something on the line (usually a bed sheet) and cause the Hills Hoist to turn. Depending on the position of the Hills Hoist, the turning motion would cause the internal shaft to rub against the outer shaft: resulting in a gentle, low metallic tone. It was – to my ears – a wonderful thing to hear occur as part of a kinetic interplay between the wind and the Hills Hoist.

I recorded the Hills Hoist in our current backyard by attaching a couple of JrF hydrophones (functioning as contact mics) with velcro straps: one to the inner shaft and outer shaft of the Hills Hoist respectively. The recordings below are the result of me ‘playing’ the Hills Hoist, since there was no wind present at the time of recording.


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