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Sometimes one needs more than just a sense of sight to appreciate a work of art. Jim Gwinner, Conservator of Public Art and Sculpture, recently performed a conservation assessment in Maryland, examining a unique kinetic musical work by Montana artist Patrick Zentz.

The conservation assessment in Maryland of Wind Chimes by Patrick Zentz consists of wood, aluminum, acrylic, and percussion instruments that translate wind and temperature into sound. These works are encased in three separate boxes, and they are inserted into the ceiling of a covered walkway leading to the US Food and Drug Administration Federal Building. The instruments create continually changing aural patterns using temperature changes as well as the wind that passes through the site.

The anemometer sits above one of the encased music boxes, deinstalled in this image for the assessment

This conservation assessment in Maryland required the right weather conditions to properly examine the artwork. The instruments respond to subtleties in wind velocity and turbulence with different tones and rhythms. Measurements are delivered to programmed chips from an anemometer, wind vane, and temperature sensor produces a score, which the instruments sense electronically, manifest kinetically, and express acoustically. The anemometer is located on the roof of the walkway.

Conservator Jim Gwinner was assisted by Christina L. Simms, Conservator of Objects and Sculpture, to partially disassemble the different boxes to identify their function and note the condition. The three instruments form a linear sequence in the walkway ceiling. All cases which house the instruments are fabricated from poplar, forming a frame. The instruments are then covered by an aluminum frame with a clear acrylic sheet. Various sound elements are mounted to the frame using a variety of mounting techniques specific to each individual element.

The assembly closest to the parking area translates the direction of the wind into sound. Four unique percussive devices, two sets of wooden blocks, a cowbell, and a “high hat” tambourine are arranged within the encasement. Mallets are mounted next to each device, and when triggered, the mallets strike the device to make a unique sound based on the direction of the wind.

When the wind blows, the cowbell, tambourine, and wood blocks play

The conservation assessment in Maryland continued with the next element, the middle instrument which transforms wind speed into aural patterns. A circular array of aluminum dowels strummed by a rotary mallet accomplishes creates the noise. The rotor turns faster or slower depending upon wind velocity. The resulting sound indicates changes in wind speed at the site.

The chimes are played by the mallet, currently missing from wear, it transforms wind into aural patterns and depends on wind speed

The instrument adjacent to the building consists of eight tuned chimes. The chimes are programmed to intonate relative to the atmospheric temperature. The lowest chime sounds if the temperature is 30°F. Subsequently, as the thermometer rises, additional chimes will join in at each 10-degree interval up to 100°F. Conversely, as the air cools, the chimes drop one after the other.

The chimes are set at different temperatures, the higher the temperature, the more the chimes play
A detail images shows the chimes of the third box controlled by temperature intervals

All of the instruments are triggered by proximity sensors. As one walks along the pathway, the various instruments will activate sequentially, and the sound will increase in complexity. The character of the sound will be different on any visit to the walkway due to the continually changing patterns of wind and temperature.

Each box is removed and its electronic components are examined

Minor condition issues such as worn or missing elements, or simply components which have detached from repetitive movements were observed. From being outdoors, there were also minor issues with insect nests as well as dirt and debris. Overall the artwork was found to in good condition and properly functioning.

The internal components of each box are examined

The artist, Patrick Zentz, as one could say, was instrumental in providing schematics and hardware specifications for future preservation and conservation treatment of Wind Chimes. As part of the conservation assessment in Maryland, it was critical to archive the function and purpose behind each component and record the information.

One does not need to perform a conservation assessment in Maryland of the Zentz artwork to enjoy it. The walkway is accessible to the public, but the tune might just be dictated by how the wind blows. For the fullest experience of Wind Chimes by Zentz choose a hot, sunny, and windy day, but, each visit will be a different adventure regardless of the weather.

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