Accessibility links

Breaking News

In New York City, Waterfalls as Public Art (and a Plumber's Dream)

Also: A question from Ukraine about the history of the circus. And new music from the British group Coldplay. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson.

Today we play music from the British band Coldplay ...

Answer a question about the circus …

And tell about a wet and wild public art project in New York City.


New York City Waterfalls


Visitors to New York City this summer have the chance to see four special art installations that are making a big splash. The Public Art Fund group hired Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson to create the New York City Waterfalls. Faith Lapidus has more about this interesting public art project in the East River.


The four New York City Waterfalls range in height from twenty-seven to thirty-six meters tall. They are made from common industrial materials like scaffolding, pumps and piping. One waterfall is under the Brooklyn Bridge, while another flows between Piers Four and Five in Brooklyn. There is one on Pier Thirty-five in Manhattan, and another on the north side of Governors Island. Together, these waterfalls move one hundred thirty-two thousand liters of water a minute.

The public art project cost more than fifteen million dollars and took two years to plan.

There are several ways to get a good look at the waterfalls. The New York City Department of Transportation organized a bicycle route that suggests riding across the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Or you can sit and enjoy looking at them from several parks. You can even see some of them while riding some public transportation trains between Manhattan and Brooklyn. We decided to take a Circle Line boat tour to fully experience the view from the water.


TOUR GUIDE: "Now, here we go into the East River, looking for waterfalls. They are the work of the artist forty-one-year-old Olafur Eliasson, born in Denmark, grew up in Iceland and now works in his studio in Berlin. He heads up a team of thirty. Not just artists but mechanics, architects and even plumbers."

Olafur Eliasson chose the form of the waterfall because he says it is easily recognizable. He wanted people to think of the water of the East River as more than just a simple surface surrounded by buildings. He wanted people to have a nature-based experience within a city environment. He said by lifting the water up into falls, he called attention to the physical presence of the water. He wanted people to see the natural forces of gravity, wind and daylight changing the water.

At the opening ceremony in June, Eliasson said the waterfalls are about public space and belong to the people of New York City. The falls were carefully built so that they do not harm organisms living in the river. The materials used to make the falls will be reused. And the waterfalls are temporary. Visitors have until October thirteenth to enjoy this unusual public art project.


History of the Circus


Our listener question this week comes from Ukraine. Olga wants to know more about the history of the circus.

During the civilization of ancient Rome, the circus was a building for large events. These included horse racing, athletic competitions and wild animal hunts.

The eighteenth century British horse expert Philip Astley is often called the creator of the modern circus. He opened a riding school in London where he also performed dangerous tricks for the public. His shows grew to include performances by acrobats, jugglers, clowns and strong men.

Circuses are usually performed in a circular area called a ring. In fact, the word "circus" comes from the Latin word for "circle." Circuses became very popular in Europe during the nineteenth century. Some European cities still have circus buildings which date from this period. These include Paris, France; Stockholm, Sweden, and Blackpool, England.

In the United States, P.T. Barnum developed a circus show that included animals performing tricks and people with unusual skills. P.T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus began in eighteen seventy. At the time, it was the largest circus in American history. Two years later Barnum was calling his circus "The Greatest Show on Earth."

The two most famous American circuses were Barnum and Bailey and the Ringling Brothers. By nineteen hundred seven, the two companies merged into one. But they performed separately for twelve years.

It was a major event when a circus such as Ringling Brothers came to perform in a city or town. During the early twentieth century, this circus required about one hundred railroad cars to carry equipment, one thousand workers and hundreds of animals.

Some of Ringling's most famous circus performers included the acrobat Lillian Leitzel, the clown Lou Jacobs and the animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams.

Today, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus has two separate shows which travel across the United States by train. Another smaller show travels by truck.

Several other groups have reinvented the circus with artistic performances that do not include animals. These include the Cirque du Soleil from Canada, Circus Baobab from Guinea and the Pickle Circus in San Francisco, California.




The British rock band Coldplay is making history with its fourth album, "Viva la Vida." The album sold more than seven hundred thousand copies in the United States during the first week it was released in June. It also became the most paid-for downloaded album in history. Barbara Klein plays three songs from this popular record.



That was the song "Lost." It is a good example of Coldplay's skill in creating dramatic rock melodies that are hard to forget. The lead singer, Chris Martin, often sings in a warm and recognizable high, falsetto voice. The title "Viva la Vida" or "long live life" comes from a painting by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Chris Martin says he has great respect for the boldness of her work.

Coldplay said it wanted to try something different with "Viva la Vida." The album includes heavier drum sounds and more serious songs. The band hired the famous record producer Brian Eno to help them with the album. Eno is best known for working with the Irish rock group U2. Here is the song "Strawberry Swing."


Coldplay has used creative methods to advertise the album. For one week, they released the song "Violet Hill" free of charge on the Internet. They also gave free performances in New York City, Barcelona, Spain, and London, England. Coldplay even appeared in an advertisement for the iTunes online music store. We leave you with "Viva la Vida," the title song of Coldplay's best-selling album.



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written and produced by Dana Demange. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.