Acoustic Arts was established in 1990 as a community arts organisation with the aim of improving access to music-making for people of all abilities and backgrounds. 

Since that time, our team of musicians, artists and teachers has created award-winning musical installations and provided workshops for educational, arts and environmental organisations throughout the UK and Europe. 

Since 2010 we have been able to self-fund aspects of our educational work by selling a range of outdoor musical instruments through a successful limited company (registered as Playground Percussion Ltd).

Acoustic Arts was originally set up, and continues to be directed, by John Walls, a musician, designer and former teacher with 20 years' experience in early years and special needs education. Inspired by his work with deaf and blind children, John has specialised in building musical instruments and sculptures that celebrate the melodic and sensory qualities found in everyday materials.

Head of production is Adam Wherly, a talented carpenter and professional drummer who takes immense pride in designing and crafting high quality percussion instruments year after year.

Artistic guidance is provided by company secretary, Moniek Koster, whose substantial experience in setting up and managing facilities for pre-school children helps to ensure that the needs of the end-user remain at the heart of any new designs or projects.

Commissions

Sounds of Scrap

Theatre and Green Fields, Glastonbury Festival, 1987-91
Muscal installations constructed from recycled musical instruments and bicycle parts. Instruments included salvaged pianos, drums and musical horns.                                                                                                                                       

Sound and Sense Trail

Woodside Centre, South Gloucestershire, 1994
A multi-sensory installation for pre-school blind children. Received the annual BT Environment Week Special Award from the Civic Trust for its “imaginative and innovative approach

Elmfield Sound Garden

Elmfield House, Bristol, 1997-98
A trail of interactive, oak-framed sound sculptures for young deaf children.

NomadVerkstan

Stockholm, 1997
Construction of a percussion station on the roof of a bus converted for use by a youth project.

Ghost Ship

Bath Arts Festival, 2000
Ghostly musical sculptures on a ‘haunted’ vessel..."A large ship glided up the river Avon making mysterious musical noises; I have never seen a ship get several rounds of applause in a concert before."
Miles Kington in The Independent

A Twist in the Tale

Malvern Spring Show, 2008
Acoustic Arts’ giant chimes feature in an award-winning children’s storytelling garden created by Lindsay Anglin of Green and Stone Garden Design.

Trolleyphones

Meadowbank Special School, Cardiff, 2010
A set of tuned instruments mounted on lockable wheels so they can be shared between playgrounds.

Music Station

London, Oxford, Bristol. Collaboration with Touchwood Enterprises, 2009 
Freestanding musical installations with frames built using unprocessed timber from the Forest of Avon. 


Walls of Sound

Bristol Playhouse Nursery, 2010
Wall-mounted musical designs created to make the best use of limited space.

Horniman Museum Music Garden

Forest Hill, London. Collaboration with Metal Media, 2011-2012 
Outdoor musical sculptures inspired by the museum’s collection of instruments from around the world.

National Museum of Scotland
Edinburgh, 2013-2014 
Radial Tongue Drum, Wall Xylophone and Paddle Pipes. Permanent interactive exhibits. 


Community Music Projects

With funding awards from the Arts Council and the National Lottery, Acoustic Arts has coordinated hands-on musical projects for children of all abilities. These range from making instruments from recycled materials to designing and planting musical gardens. Previous partners include Youth Music, Surestart, BBC 2, Radio 3, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, Barnardos, Sense, RNIB, RNID, NatWest and Whitbread.


Blow Your Own Trumpet

with Bristol School of Samba, 2000
In a project designed and coordinated by Acoustic Arts, a group of 25 teenagers worked with professional craftsmen over ten weeks to build musical instruments from recycled materials. They then performed their own compositions at a BBC Music Live concert in front of 2000 people.

All Join In

with Children’s Playlink and South Gloucestershire Council, 2003-4 
In this project, involving over 400 pre-school children, Acoustic Arts recruited local and international artists to showcase a wide variety of musical styles and instruments, and to provide specialist training for playgroup leaders.

5x5x5

with WOMAD and Youth Music, 2006
Inspired by the Reggio Emilia early years educational model in N. Italy, this research project brought together groups of young children, some with profound learning difficulties, to explore art and sound in a series of self-directed sessions.

Growing Music: Rhythms for Life

with WOMAD and RIO, 2008–9
Acoustic Arts played a central role in designing and delivering this pioneering project which explored the global links between music, culture, plants and climate. Working with a number of primary schools in Cornwall, the international team helped children to grow, and perform on, their own musical instruments.





'The mix of fun and creativity never fails to captivate the children'
                                         Bath Area Play Project