Brunswick Mall will be musically inclined

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BRUNSWICK — The sound of music will soon be coming to the Town Mall.

On June 18, the Brunswick Town Council unanimously approved placing an interactive musical sculpture by Maine sculptor Andreas Von Huene on the Town Mall at the request of Brunswick Public Art. It will be placed in between the gazebo and First Parish Church.

With the vote, councilors also authorized Town Manager John Eldridge to accept a gift of the sculpture and related signage from the organization after it is completed and installed. The project will also need to receive approval from the Village Review Board.

The sculpture, titled “The River’s Voice,” will be made from recycled steel disks, tuned to musical intervals and mounted on a granite base. It will be 9 feet long and 2.5 feet high, and passersby will be able to “play” the piece with rubber mallets placed in a receptacle nearby.

Monday night, Susan Weems, president of Brunswick Public Art and her husband, Steve Weems, treasurer of the organization, gave a presentation about the sculpture to councilors.

Steve Weems called bringing the sculpture to Brunswick “a highly collaborative process” stretching over three years, and said with necessary town approvals, Brunswick Public Art was prepared to sign an agreement with Von Huene. 

The goal, he added, is to have the sculpture installed by fall 2018.

Councilor Jane Millett asked if the sculpture would make any “passive music” just by having wind pass through it.

“No, you’ve gotta interact with this baby to make it sing,” Weems said. “It’s not designed to make noise unless you thump it.”

Von Huene has created sculptures in numerous public spaces around the state, including Mid Coast Hospital. Weems said the artist has a master’s degree in engineering and product design, and is the child of antique music makers, making him “the perfect person” to create such an installation in Brunswick.

After meeting with Director of Parks and Recreation Thomas Farrell to determine a location for the sculpture, members of Brunswick Public Art also met with Landscape Architect Todd Richardson from the firm Richardson and Associates.

Richardson has also provided oversight for other monuments on the Town Mall, such as the relocation of the Spanish War Memorial and the recent Veterans War Memorial redesign. 

Chairman John Perrault asked if the rubber mallets would be attached to the sculpture. Weems said the initial plan is to keep them detached, as they are easier to use that way, but the “fall back” plan is to tether the mallets to the sculpture.

Brunswick Public Art and Bowdoin College will also have mallets in case the tools are stolen. 

While councilors expressed support for the piece, Brunswick resident Sue Stableford said she was concerned about the volume of the “noise” produced by “River’s Voice.”

Stableford said the proposed area for the piece is a “really noisy intersection.”

“Do we really need more noise in this particular section of town?” she asked.

Weems responded by saying the more likely issue would be an inability to hear the music, which he described as “mellow” and “bell-like,” above the nearby traffic.

Perrault also noted if noise became an issue, the sculpture could be removed.

“We have a right, I would assume, if it’s bothersome and noisy and a nuisance, to have it removed or adjust it or anything to that effect,” he said. 

At-large Councilor Alison Harris also said Brunswick Public Art will be responsible for funding the maintenance of the piece, and voiced her support for the installation, especially because of the artist.

“I think it would be a tremendous honor to have his work here in our downtown,” she said. 

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

On June 18, Brunswick councilors approved the installation of an interactive musical sculpture, “The River’s Voice,” by Andreas Von Huene on the Town Mall.

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