ASU organ concert explores U.S.-Mexico border wall through music and media

Fritts organ pipes

ASU's Fritts organ pipes.


Arizona State University’s School of Music launches the 2018-19 Organ Series with a multidisciplinary presentation, “Walls of Sound: The Ecology of the Borderlands,” addressing the ecological impact of a wall at Arizona’s southern border.

“Our program seeks to show that the border wall is an invasive species amongst the biodiversity in the borderlands,” said Kimberly Marshall, Goldman Professor of Organ in the School of Music in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Knowing that the border wall issue has been explored extensively, we focus specifically on the unforeseen ecological problems of erecting a wall through a fragile Sonoran Desert ecosystem.”

Marshall and Alexander Meszler, Fulbright grantee for 2018-19, will perform the presentation on the renowned Fritts and Traeri organs in ASU’s Organ Hall on Sept. 16 at 2:30 p.m.

Marshall said the project was originally inspired by visual artist Jennifer Meridian and “The Other Border Wall Proposals,” which included a depiction of organ pipes along the border instead of a typical wall. The multidisciplinary presentation consists of video, audio and scientific work of many on- and off-campus collaborators.

The music includes improvisation, world premieres and organ pieces from the 18th through 21st centuries. The new music will consist of two recently commissioned works — one for two organs and electronics by Welsh composer Huw Morgan and one solely for electronics utilizing natural sounds from Organ Pipe National Park by Garth Paine, founder of The Listen(n) Project and associate professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and in the School of Music.

Recent works will include an ecologically-inspired work by University of Arizona composer Pamela Decker and a work by Philadelphia-based composer Edward Landin set to the poetry of Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos. To demonstrate the wide geographic and chronological range of organ music, the program includes excerpts from the Chiquitos (Bolivia) manuscripts assembled during the 18th century, as well as pieces by J. S. Bach and Olivier Messiaen.

Marshall said the project was also inspired by the work of musician and activist Glen Weyant, who has raised awareness of the border wall through his creative work. Weyant has received national attention for visiting sections of the border for over a decade and using the wall as a musical instrument. He has created numerous recordings and videos, some of which will be included in the presentation.

In addition to the music, Toby Yatso, lecturer in the ASU School of Music and artist-in-residence at Phoenix Theatre, will narrate the performance. Michael Schoon, associate professor in the ASU School of Sustainability and Senior Sustainability Scientist for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, is providing expertise to the program’s narration. Samantha Lloyd, multimedia specialist in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, is providing experiences and expertise on biodiversity in the borderlands through her videography work. Her short documentary film on the border wall will be shown at the beginning of the program.

The ASU Organ Series offers a variety of performers and repertoires to delight audiences during the 2018-19 season. All performances are in Organ Hall on ASU’s Tempe campus. Purchase tickets from the Herberger Institute box office.

2018-19 Organ Series

Walls of Sound: The Ecology of the Borderlands
Kimberly Marshall and Alexander Meszler, organ
Toby Yatso, narrator
2:30 p.m. Sept. 16 

A Celebration of Robert Clark’s Legacy
Douglas Reed, Curt Sather, Michael Mazzatenta and Mark Overton, organists
2:30 p.m. Oct. 21 

In Memoriam, a Program for Veteran’s Day
Kimberly Marshall, organ
 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11

A Global Christmas Fest
Melanie Holm, vocalist
Kimberly Marshall and the ASU Organ Studio
2:30 and 5 p.m. Dec. 8-9 

Baroque Germany and 21st Century America
Rhonda Edgington, organ
2:30 p.m. Jan. 27 

The Organ and Improvisation
Skye Hart, organ
2:30 p.m. Feb. 10 

Mendelssohn at the Organ
Kimberly Marshall, organ
2:30 p.m. March 17 

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