Cuesta College students’ sound sculptures click, clack and clank

Cuesta College students explore sound through sculptures

Students in a beginning sculpture class built interactive sound sculptures they displayed at Cuesta College in April 2016.
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Students in a beginning sculpture class built interactive sound sculptures they displayed at Cuesta College in April 2016.

At 2 p.m. on a Wednesday, the Cuesta College campus seemed mostly deserted. A few students hurried past looking at their phones or huddling against the unseasonably chilly wind, but otherwise, the campus was quiet.

But a muffled “thump-thump-thump” of drums and a musical tinkling that sounded like wind chimes could be heard coming from somewhere on campus. Rounding a corner near the school’s cafeteria, the sounds got louder, and their source was revealed:

A group of students stood clustered on the grass around five sculptures, turning wheels on the pieces or hitting them to create a cacophony of clicks, clacks and clanks.

The sculptures are an art project for students in instructor Margaret Korishelli’s Sculpture I class. Each semester, students in the class create large, civic-minded sculptures that they exhibit somewhere on campus. They were displayed Monday and Wednesday.

This was the first year students chose to make “sound sculptures,” Korishelli said. In the past they’ve created a giant worm that people could walk through to raise awareness of genetically modified organisms, a recycled car that sat in the parking lot and various other language-based pieces of artwork.

“The idea of it was that they wanted it to be like the heartbeat of campus,” she said.

Student Crystal Diaz said her favorite part about the sculpture she and partner Eric Plummer built is the sound: The upside down bicycle-wheel structure emitted a “da-dink-da-dink” sound as she turned a foot pedal, spinning the wheels and the metal pieces attached to them.

The idea of it was that they wanted it to be like the heartbeat of campus.

Margaret Korishelli, Cuesta College instructor

“We just wanted something that turned and made noise,” she said. “We got bicycles involved because we had access to bicycle parts. We had a lot of ideas, to have the wheels somehow powered by the other wheels, and that, of course, became a problem. But this is what ended up happening. And it was my first time welding, so that was fun.”

Another of the projects — possibly the loudest on its own because of the day’s heavy winds — was a large wind chime built by students Lisa Million and Zoe Rollison.

“It just makes a beautiful sound, and you can go inside of the wind chime and be a part of it as opposed to just listening to it,” Million said as Rollison stood inside the contraption, clanging metal pieces against the pipes, rings and glass bottles suspended from a recycled trampoline frame.

The structures took the students two weeks to make, though some of the students were still working through problems with their sculptures on Wednesday.

Jamaica Hines’ percussive sculpture featured rubber-covered PVC pipes suspended from a frame to make a series of drums that could be hit with rubber spatulas instead of drumsticks.

The structure was popular with the students — with several of them dancing around it in a sort of drum circle performance — but shortly after 2 p.m., one of the strings holding the drums up snapped, prompting groans from Hines and the assembled students.

“I hope you got a good shot of it beforehand,” Hines joked as she tried to hold up one of the dangling drums.

That didn’t stop her and another student from continuing to play with the piece, banging on the sides and still-working drums, letting the thump-thump-thump blend with the whirring of Diaz and Plummer’s bicycle and the tinkling of Million and Rollison’s wind chime.

Until one of the spatulas broke as well.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie