River’s voice updateMarch 30, 2018
From the Times Record, an update on The River’s Voice:
THE RIVER’S VOICE
Andreas von Huene took a rubber mallet and struck the 42-inch-diameter metal disc he liberated from a scrap metal pile at Bath Iron Works that was balanced on his workshop table.
Like hitting a kind of Iron Age gong, the sound filled the ramshackle space, its reverberations coming like waves. Its presence felt somehow viscous, if such a term can describe sound.
“Now listen to this,” von Huene said, and tossed a few coins onto the disc. This time, the sound became piercing, as if Jimi Hendrix was choking as much high-pitched feedback as he could out of a Marshall amp and Stratocaster.
Working in collaboration with the Brunswick Parks and Rec Department and Brunswick Public Art, von Huene wants to bring a combination of sight and sound onto the Brunswick Mall in the form of a $40,000 playable, percussive sculpture.“The River’s Voice” is described by Brunswick Public Art as an “outdoor interactive musical sculpture” that may be installed as soon as this fall. The organization states the work will “celebrates the return of the Androscoggin River as a a defining and honored feature of our town.”
Von Huene said he was inspired by the notion that “all New England towns turn their backs on the rivers,” yet now Brunswick is connecting its downtown to the Androscoggin.
Thus, the title “The River’s Voice.”
The 8-foot long, 4-5 ton work will consist of a series of metal discs of varying sizes mounted on a granite base that, when struck, will produce music.
Brunswick Public Art has raised about half the cost for its creation and installation on the southern end on the Mall.“It’s the kind of project we’d been thinking about for years,” Brunswick Public Art President Susan Weems said. “It’s just a happy, positive piece of art that most communities don’t have.”
Weems said the sculpture fits in with other entities in the area, including Bowdoin International Music Festival and Maine State Music Theatre, both of which hold performances at Bowdoin College.
However, use of the Brunswick Mall has been contentious. Members of the public and some on the Brunswick Town Council have voiced concern over the increased presence of vendors, and with a planned memorial on the Mall’s north end.
“The River’s Voice” will be installed at an area of the Mall separated by a set of railroad tracks, and “is not used very much,” Weems said.
Noise generated by the sculpture shouldn’t disturb nearby businesses, she said, because it “won’t be that loud.”
“There won’t be crashing and banging,” Weems said. “This will be a beautiful sound. And it won’t be bothering sleepers.”
“The River’s Voice was initially planned to be located on the bike path along the Androscoggin River, but Weems said the location was “too disconnected” from downtown.
After installation, “The River’s Voice” will be owned by the town, free of charge.
For a guy whose work includes the most visible piece of public art in Bath — a gleaming white sculpture near the Androscoggin — von Huene is not easy to find.
His Arrowsic studio is perched atop a wooded hill accessible via a long, twisting dirt drive. His closest neighbors appear to be a flock of wild turkeys that regularly stop by to be fed.
His studio and workshops are a maze of tools, found objects and raw material. It’s there where he taps his creative juices.
“I’m a sculptor, I like shaping things,” von Huene said. “It’s a process of discovery — an adventure.”
He works in wood, metal and stone, and a trip to the quarry for material makes him feel “like a kid in a candy store.”
“As you’re carving (a sculpture), it’s character is developing. It’s kind of like building a friend, or a child,” von Huene said. “You think you can control it all, but then you’re missing part of the joy of its character developing. Some people say, ‘the stone rules.’ And that’s often the case.”
He added: “There’s no word in the English language that adequately describes the combination of blistering hard work and pleasure.”
Von Huenes said it was important that “The River’s Voice” be something interactive, and to engage with the senses.
“So much of our life has been removed from touching things,” he said, “from experiencing things directly. We’ll go to concerts, movies, we’ll watch television. … Some people are making great discoveries with their apps. But that’s all so secondary. How do we get back to the primary experiences?
“Touch is an important part of sculpture to me.”
Von Huenes work can be seen at Mid Coast Hospital, Mt. Ararat Middle School and even on the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.
Von Huenes co-lead the team that built the gleaming white sculpture mentioned earlier — a representation of the schooner Wyoming at Maine Maritime Museum.
There are easier ways to making a living than sculpting, but the challenge is part of the joy Von Huenes finds in his work. And he finds that Maine is the best place for making sculpture.
“The light in Maine is special,” Von Huenes said. “There’s a depth to the sky. And people are approachable. We have cultivated a collegiality amongst ourselves (fellow sculptors). That interconnectedness can be subsumed in a city.”
For von Huenes, art helps people go further in life and beyond their regular routines.
As to why is it important to expose the public to sculptures, like “The River’s Voice” — Weems has an answer, which lies, in part, in the collaborative nature through which the sculpture is coming together.
“Because beauty is important,” she said. “People working together is important.”
For more information on the fundraising for “The River’s Voice,” visit brunswickpublicart.org.