Day Trips: Singing Ringing Tree, Abilene

Soundless sculpture still impresses

photos by Gerald E. McLeod

The Singing Ringing Tree in Abilene has mostly been silent.

Installed last summer, the 22-foot-tall sculpture is made of 22 horizontal levels of 3-inch pipe, each around 12 inches long. It looks like a windblown tree, or a tornado, or maybe a stack of pipes frozen in midfall.

The idea is that the pipes would make wind-powered music, much like blowing over the top of a bottle.

"To be honest," says Lynn Barnett, director of the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, "most of us haven't heard it yet."

The artwork was gifted to the city along with installation costs by an anonymous art collector from Manor who has since passed away.

Barnett says it was placed in an out-of-the-way location to take advantage of winds channeled through two underpasses. Plus, the city didn't know how loud it was going to be or what it would sound like. Turns out they needn't have worried about either.

The art piece is the third version designed in 2006 by architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu in Lancashire, England. Similar, but working, models are in Burnley, UK, and Saudi Arabia. The art was given an award for excellence in 2007.

It's a bit of a mystery why the tubes have failed to sing. It's not like the Abilene area doesn't get its share of wind. The Roscoe Wind Farm, one of the country's largest wind turbine farms, is outside of town.

The Singing Ringing Tree in Abilene is in a difficult-to-access median near Frontier Texas!, south of North First Street where Treadaway Boulevard splits to go under the railroad tracks. Even a silent Singing Ringing Tree, also the name of a children's book, fits in with the city's motif of "Storybook Capital of Texas" and its other 28 storybook-related sculptures.

1,653th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at

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