The Terrestrial Trio can turn anything into music.

Recycling Sounds 

The Terrestrial Trio can turn anything into music.

Marco Maggi, whose artwork is on display at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, has suggested that it is more interesting to look at the utensils than the menus at fast food restaurants. In a world that somehow has managed to necessitate sporks, he may be right.

As museum visitors attempt to ingest Maggi's strangely circuitous art this Saturday, they might be inspired to think about new utensils. The Terrestrial Trio, an experimental music group scheduled to play a piece called "Suspension Bridges" in the museum corridor from 2 to 4 p.m., could help generate a few ideas.

The Terrestrial Trio is actually part of a larger collective known as the Terrestrial Consort, a group that has been known to make music with flower pots, shopping carts, toy pianos and water jugs hanging from ropes. Despite the fact that these instruments are "found objects," the resulting orchestrations are never haphazard.

The flower pots, for example, were carefully selected, tuned and arranged to form a five-note scale for which composer Jeffrey Ruckma has devised a special system of notation. Ruckma says flower pots "have a wonderful mellow tone" that made the effort worth his while.

Given the group's repertoire, "Suspension Bridges" makes use of relatively traditional instruments. The piece is written for a toy piano, two specially prepared dulcimers (one of which will have nuts, bolts and nails placed in its strings), a cello, a clarinet and crystal wine glasses. "The title's almost a pun," says Ruckma. "A suspended chord is one that wants to lead you to the next harmony and leave you suspended. This piece is also long and curving like the visual of a suspension bridge."

This selection is part of a larger composition called Enough Furniture to Last Until Morning, a piece in which the segments play in separate spaces so that about ten hours' worth of sheet music is squeezed into two hours. The story behind the title explains why the musicians devour the composition so hastily: In the 1980s, Ruckma walked into a movie theater halfway through a subtitled Russian film. The text onscreen as he walked in read, "We have enough furniture to last until morning." As the movie progressed, it became clear that the main characters were freezing inside a cabin and the only way they had to keep warm was to burn their furniture.

The idea fascinated Ruckma. "They were burning things they needed for later just to get by for now. I don't want to draw too many conclusions, but I feel that is reflective of how we behave as a society. I don't want to be too overtly environmentalist, but these are real issues."

So in a bold act of recycling, Ruckma takes old springs, nuts and bolts and sticks them between dulcimer strings. If only he could find a use for the world's surplus of sporks.

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