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On 9/11, Pellman Remembered Through His Sound Design at Shanksville Memorial


As Americans today mark the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that struck the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pa., a member of the Hamilton community is also remembered.

Professor of Music Sam Pellman, who was tragically killed in a bicycling accident on Nov. 9, 2017, created the pitch design for the Tower of Voices (TOV) at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pa. The TOV is a 93-feet musical instrument, holding 40 wind chimes representing the voices of United Flight 93’s 40 passengers and crew members, and serves as both a visual and audible reminder of the heroism of the passengers and crew.

Pellman’s wife Colleen, children John and Emily, one of his former students and electronic collaborators Ben Salzman ’14, and other family members and friends attended the dedication of the Tower of Voices on Sunday, Sept. 9..

Salzman ’14, Bellona ’03, and Gant Honor Pellman

Ben Salzman ’14 and Jon Bellona ’03 opened the Kyma International Sound Symposium (KISS) with a presentation about the work of their mentor, Professor of Music Sam Pellman. Salzman and Professor of Art Ella Gant presented a live virtual reality performance in his honor. The symposium took place Sept. 6-9.

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The sole musician on a team of acousticians, architects, and National Park Service staff, Sam 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.

Colleen Pellman offered her reflections on the event.

“Even though only 8 chimes were actually hung for (the) ceremony I was mindful of the significance of this event. I am grateful that Sam was able to finish his work on this project before he was killed, but also very sad that he will never hear the finished product.

“Sunday’s service itself was somewhat somber as we were reminded of why we were gathered … Music for the event was provided by the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants. Both Sam and I were impressed with their performance at last year’s 9/11 commemoration, and he would have been delighted that they were chosen to be a part of the dedication.

“I was asked to be one of 40 chime ringers (who represented all the different constituencies involved in making the tower happen) as a part of the ceremony. The rehearsals for this helped me to focus my thoughts toward doing a good job on behalf of Sam, for the 40 passengers, and for their families.

“The ringers used thick ropes to ring the chimes, but most of us did not perfect the technique and we did not get the sounds that will occur when the wind goes through them. After the ceremony the ropes were cut into two-inch lengths which were stapled to unused tickets and given to all participants as a remembrance of the experience.

“This weekend reinforced my deep admiration for the families of the Flight 93 passengers, the people of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and the employees of the National Park Service. Together they continue to work to ensure that those who gave their lives that day will be remembered in a fitting and lasting way.

“Even the inclement weather did not dampen the spirits of those who worked at or attended the event. In fact the weather seemed to make the workers and attendees bond together to fight the elements.

“I look forward to visiting the park and hearing the chimes many times in the future," Colleen Pellman concluded.

A simulation of Pellman’s creation can be heard on the Tower of Voices website.

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