CLINTON — The Flight 93 National Memorial, located near Shanksville, Pa., dedicated its final element, the Tower of Voices (TOV) on Sept. 9.
The monumental, 93-feet musical instrument, holding 40 wind chimes representing United Flight 93’s 40 passengers and crew members, serves as both a visual and audible reminder of the heroism of the passengers and crew.
The chimes’ pitch design was created by Hamilton College’s Professor of Music Sam Pellman, who was killed shortly after completing the project. The sole musician on a team of acousticians, architects, and National Park Service staff, Pellman was hired for his combined expertise in acoustics and composition. He was selected for the project by the memorial’s architectural firm, Paul Murdoch Architects.
“Sam was the perfect choice for this project, because so much of his work in electronic music involved a type of tuning,” reflected Hamilton Professor of Music Heather Buchman. “I know this project was personally meaningful to Sam. And I can’t wait to hear the Tower of Voices, as it will also have embedded in it Sam’s musical voice.”
The chimes are intended to be a landmark feature near the memorial entrance, visible from Route 30/Lincoln Highway. Ranging from five feet to 10 feet in length and made from polished aluminum tubes that range in diameter from eight to 16 inches, each chime is tuned to a different note, symbolic of each victim’s unique voice. A simulation of Pellman’s creation can be heard at the Tower of Voices website. The movement of the wind will generate each chime’s tone.
According to the memorial’s website, “There are no other chime structures like this in the world. The shape and orientation of the Tower are designed to optimize air flow through the TOV walls to reach the interior chime chamber. The chime system is designed using music theory to identify a mathematically developed range of frequencies needed to produce a distinct musical note associated with each chime.”
Pellman’s former students Ben Salzman, who worked most closely with Pellman in his role as a digital media specialist at Hamilton, and Jon Bellona wrote “Sam’s compositional work is a by-product of his tireless passion for students and ideas, collaborative learning and theoretical concepts, and the intersection of science and the arts. Sam’s upbeat ethics, positive attitude, and dedication to the hope and optimism of the arts to construct meaningful dialogue has helped create a catalog of meaningful works. We know Sam will live on in the memory of the Tower of Voices, where each and every time a chime is rung remembering those who lost their lives on Flight 93, his ideas sound out across the valley of Shanksville, Pa.”