Guy Cooper makes Migaloo sing for SWELL

Guy Cooper is a renaissance man. There wouldn’t be many people involved in Gold Coast music who aren’t aware of him as a musician, composer, lecturer, engineer, producer or label owner. But we wonder how many people know that he’s also studied electrical engineering, robotics and material science? And, oh yeah, he has a GradCert in Astrobiology. No biggie. Not content with what most would consider to be an already robust string of educational and professional credits, Guy has now decided to add sculptor to the list, with his first piece ‘Migaloo’s Song’ soon to appear at SWELL Sculpture Festival.

An artist of many formats, Guy already sculpts sound and vibrations into art via his production. ‘Migaloo’s Song’ incorporates this skill into an actual steel-framed life-sized humpback whale sculpture, replete with strings that play his own composition.

“It’s a giant stringed instrument,” he explains.

“It’s a large 9.5 metre kinetic wind harp, (the power comes from the wind). It spins around and plays the strings in a music score that I’ve written.”

The composition played by the sculpture is harmonically matched to a recorded whale song, and is based on the same structure as the songs from humpback whales.

“I’ve written my own whale song in three part harmony and the structure itself plays it like a music box,” says Guy.

Most people are aware that whales sing. However male humpback whales in particular have been described as inveterate composers of songs that are “‘strikingly similar” to human musical traditions. Guy explains the connection.

“The humpback is the only one that sings for the fun of it. It sings complex songs. Whale songs are much more complex than bird songs, they go for three or four hours, and harmonise with other whales.

“Looking at music and vibrations and science and using science to communicate with other species… They say maths is the universal language but it’s music. It’s a shared kinship we have with the whales. They sing for lots of reasons.”

The sheer scope of the project is blindingly ambitious. The entire piece weighs about three quarters of a tonne, contains 412 metres of string, and is designed so that its score will play the same from both ends, regardless of wind direction. It’s also the second-largest stringed instrument in the southern hemisphere. Not a bad effort for someone who only just learned how to weld.

“I watched a YouTube video and started welding, basically,” Guy informs us.

“All my first welds are in this.”

I can’t help but get the impression that Guy Cooper just doesn’t view obstacles the same way that the rest of us do. Just talking to him about his myriad projects makes me feel like having a cuppa and a lie down. As his professional and educational history attests, he’s always been motivated. But he’s currently getting an extra push from his health.

“I have lymphoma,” he states simply.

“I basically have another three months to try and shrink it with chemo drugs. If it doesn’t shrink, I’ll have to start a course of radiation treatment.”

Radiation sucks for anyone, but for Type 1 diabetics, which Guy is, it can prove fatal. Currently all energies are being directed to the most favourable outcome, which is the tumour shrinkage and successful removal. Guy remains positive.

“I guess there’s this whole thing ‘well if it’s my last three months I don’t want to sit around being depressed and doing nothing’. But that’s not going to happen!”

Some of the artists from Guy’s label Human Records will soon be gathering to record an actual song based on the sculpture score. Julia Rose, Reichelt, Lane-Harry x Ike Campbell, Felicity Lawless, Mickey, Blooom, Leopold’s Treat and Charlie Rebel have all signed up for the project. It’s going to be like the Gold Coast’s very own ‘Feed The World’.

“We’ll release it for SWELL,” says Guy. “All the profits from it will go to Sea Shepherd.”

“I hope that [Migaloo’s Song] will inspire some viewers to further understand the interconnected world we live in and how these giant majestic mammals are similar to humans in song.”

SWELL Sculpture Festival runs from 8 – 17 September at Currumbin Beach. Be sure to catch ‘Migaloo’s Song’ “live” on the foreshore, and visit for more.

IMAGE (c) Lamp Photography

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  • […] stories. Local musician, producer, sculptor, acoustic technician, record studio and label owner Guy Cooper will help kids discover the beginnings of sound and music technology using everyday objects to make […]

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