This Sunday, May 1, Flushing Town Hall will present an unique musical experience, a Symphony of Chimes.
Led by Queens resident Skip La Plante, the symphony will include hundreds of chimes comprised of thousands of individual pieces. And much of the material was once discarded trash that Skip fished out of piles and bags, often as he traversed New York City roadways.
“This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Skip says.
Skip made his first windchime in 1974 back at Spacefarm, creating it from ten spoons plucked from a kitchen drawer, and 30 forks. “Some of those forks became the sounding elements of the chime,” he recalls.
Pushrods from a blown VW engine that was out in the barn turned into the second chime. A few months later, the contents of a defunct marine supply warehouse arrived at Spacefarm, and in due course some of that became even more windchimes.
Skip moved to New York City in 1975, and started to build other instruments, including more chimes, out of cullings from the urban trashscape. The first composition for windchimes was presented at Music For Homemade Instruments’ inaugural concert in December 1975.
Skip moved to a huge Bowery loft and over the years built many more chimes, and hung all of them from the heating pipes on the ceiling of the loft. It never occurred to him to make a definitive piece for the chimes until the building was sold in 2013.
So he packed the 100 chimes that were strung from the ceiling into boxes and housed them in the basement of his new home in Queens.
Then, Skip discovered Exploring the Metropolis (EtM), an organization whose mission is to provide work space for artists of various disciplines, but especially composers.
EtM focuses on the built environment and helps two New York City cultural communities: performing artists/companies seeking affordable, suitable workspace to rehearse and perform; and, cultural facilities with underused space and the need to activate them.
To do this, EtM engages with cultural communities and facilities through studies of their physical facility needs, operating structures; work for and with government by supplying neutral data and resources based on specialized experience; and, provide opportunities for composers through our residency programs.
EtM’s Con Edison Composers’ Residency program was created to provide free, long-term studio space to composers who are in need of a dedicated workspace outside of their home. Since 2009, EtM has administered the program, which has supported more than 40 composers, providing them with more than $375,000 worth of no-cost rehearsal space and cash support.
“To all my composer friends, this is an amazing program,” Skip says. “Check them out. If you live in New York City, you could get one of the composer residencies in the future.”
Skip applied, and submitted a recording of a short segment of the score he created for Wendy Osserman (of the Wendy Osserman Dance Company). He was accepted, and has since been the composer-in-residence at Flushing Town Hall over this past winter and spring.
“I’ve given myself the task of creating the definitive composition for windchimes, at least this collection of windchimes, which now number 130,” he says.
He also is working with an interesting collection of musicians” Laurie Bennett, David Denmitz, Kyle Farrell, Andrea Skurr, and Omar Zubair.
“I’m delighted to work with Andrea, who has made a reputation for herself as choreographer in chief with her dance company Ruah,” Skip says. “Andrea is a musician herself, and Ruah has done some remarkable collaborations with musicians that thoroughly blur the line separating musicians from dancers. And while most musical instruments are designed to provide the players with access to many musical possibilities with minimal movement through space, 130 windchimes fill 12 coat racks and occupy a very large space. There is no way playing them is not a dance!”
After the event this Sunday, he hopes to do more with the chimes.
Tickets are free to the event, but reservations are recommended. You can RSVP here.