San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge ghostly hum serenades nearby residents

We live a couple of miles away from the historic Golden Gate Bridge and have been intermittently serenaded for months by the hum of the natural music moving in our direction.

The sound comes through as a sharp high pitched whistle and definitely ads an interesting vibe to our quiet Richmond District neighborhood close by the Pacific Ocean.

There is always an opportunity for someone in San Francisco to make a statement. Now San Francisco State University graduate Nate Mercerau has put the ghostly hums to artistic use.

Excerpted from San Francisco Chronicle 7.19.2021

The relentless drone the Golden Gate Bridge makes on windy days is a nuisance to many Bay Area residents. But for Nate Mercereau, a musician who has written and produced songs for platinum-selling pop stars including Lizzo and Shawn Mendes, the racket — created when gusts blow through the bridge’s newish safety slats — is a source of inspiration in the key of C-major.

“Actually, the note the bridge makes seems to fluctuate depending on where you are standing,” Mercereau said. “It plays four notes pretty solidly. There’s an A, B, and a G that warble together and create the ominous part of the sound, and then there’s a high C that holds it all together.”


Mercereau said the inspiration for the project, titled “Duets / Golden Gate Bridge,” came from an article in The Chronicle with the headline: “The Golden Gate Bridge ‘humming’ is driving people crazy. A team of engineers is working to shut it up.”

“This is like a full-circle moment for me,” he said, with a laugh.

The story prompted him to team up with his engineer, Zach Parkes, and spend two breezy days in May in the Marin Headlands, just north of the span. There, with Mercereau performing in a cove near an old military bunker, they recorded improvised duets with the much-derided, caterwauling hum of the bridge.

“Because there is so much negative attention around it, this seemed like an opportunity to look at it another way,” said Mercereau, a San Francisco State University alum who now lives far from the noise in the Los Angeles foothills.

While he expresses deep sympathy for the people who live near the interminable clamor — the result of a $12 million retrofit of the western sidewalk rail last year — he said creating a set of songs with the 88-year-old bridge as his only accompanist was too good an opportunity to pass up.

“It’s the largest wind instrument in the world right now,” Mercereau said.

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The fog flows through the Golden Gate Bridge

Using recording equipment powered by car batteries and surrounded by windscreens, Mercereau and Parkes managed to produce nearly eight hours of improvised music in the spirit of artists such as John Cage and Brian Eno.

The four tracks that made the album are simply titled “Duet 1,” “Duet 2,” “Duet 3” and — you guessed it — “Duet 4.”