The work Seven Tears by Scottish artist Susan Philipsz can be heard through seven speakers that are spread around the Willemsplein; the artist based the sound piece on the composition Pavane Lacrimae by Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562 – 1621). The piece (37″) plays daily, starting at 12:00, 15:00, 18:00 and 20:00 hrs.
Sweelinck based his Pavane Lacrimae on the song Flow My Tears by his cohort, composer John Dowland (1563 – 1626). This song by Dowland, made for lute and voice, was quite influential at the time. It is one of the first examples of the ‘trend’ of the time of melancholia, the emotional mood often written about at that time.
Philipsz experimented for the plaza under the Erasmus Bridge – bordered by apartment complexes, the Erasmus Bridge and the Maas- with different kinds of sound. A first-string version was followed by a wind version with organ pipes, followed by the final version. In this version, Sweelinck’s composition is played by musicians on glasses filled with water. The composition refers to the drops of tears as a motif, and the element of Baroque lament, which appeals to the idea of happiness as a fleeting emotion. Due to its ingenious, precise set-up, with speakers specially designed for the purpose mounted on light poles, the sounds and fragments of music mix with the sounds of the city. The sound landscape accompanies the passers-by walking under the bridge along the Maas with striking subtlety, playing each evening during sunset.