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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    On the Spot

    On the Spot

    We found New Mexico resident Rick Van Ness at the Fourth Avenue Spring Street Fair, selling lamps made out of musical instruments.

    Wildcat: So what are these?

    Van Ness: They’re lighted sculpture. They’re made from mid-found materials, including non-working and economically unfixable brass and woodwind musical instruments, like saxophones, clarinets, trumpets, French horns…

    W: Are they high quality, high performance instruments?

    VN: Well, no. They’re used up. They are played out fully when we buy them. And they’re considered economically unfixable. The cost of making them work properly and play in tune is greater than the retail value of the instrument.

    W: Are they easy to make into these lights?

    VN: No, they’re created around structural steel and marble and granite, so there’s structural steel vertically through all the pieces, and they literally have dozens and in some case, hundreds of parts inside of them.

    W: How often do you have to clean the apertures inside?

    VN: That’s not a good question to ask me.

    W: Oh.

    VN: Yeah, you don’t want to ask me that. Let’s talk about art or something.

    W: Could they play a lot of octaves?

    VN: No, it’s visual art. It’s lighted sculpture. There are lights that come up through this disk; that’s a hand blown glass sphere that lights up, hand blown torchiere that lights up. And they come on by touch.

    W: Oh.

    VN: They come on low, medium, high and off, and you can operate any one by itself with these switches. So you can, for instance, turn everything off but this. Then in an unlit space, the light coming up through this, reflecting off the high points of the instrument, create a visual effect that’s lovely, and different than its more literal use.

    W: Does it produce a sound as well?

    VN: No, this is strictly visual art.

    W: Oh, OK.

    VN: These are done playing. Done making music.

    W: How much do they cost?

    VN: The free-standing pieces are $4,000 to $5,000. The pieces that sit on tables are in the neighborhood of $1,000.

    W: Can you make them out of different instruments, say I wanted a kazoo, or a timpani or something like that?

    VN: I don’t think either of those would lend themselves, but we make them out of a wide variety of instruments.

    W: Can you do a recorder?

    VN: A recorder isn’t that interesting to look at.

    W: Yeah. Do people ever get into fights about what instrument is better?

    VN: I don’t know about that.

    – interview by Andi Berlin

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