Sam Pellman

The Flight 93 National Memorial, located near Shanksville, Pa., will dedicate its final element, the Tower of Voices (TOV), on Sunday, Sept. 9. This 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 Professor of Music Sam Pellman, who was tragically killed shortly after completing this 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.

Tower of Voices - Artwork courtesy of bioLinia and Paul Murdoch Architects.
Tower of Voices: Rendering courtesy of bioLinia and 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 Professor of Music Heather Buchman. “I know this project was personally meaningful to him. And I can’t wait to hear the Tower of Voices, as it will also have embedded in it Sam’s musical voice.” A simulation of Pellman’s creation can be heard at the  Tower of Voices website. A livestream of the Tower of Voices dedication may be viewed Sunday at 1 p.m.

The chimes are intended to be a landmark feature near the memorial entrance, visible from US 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. 

Tower of Voices Chimes
Tower of Voices Chimes: Rendering courtesy of Paul Murdoch Architects.

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 airflow 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. The applied music theory allows the sound produced by individual chimes to be musically compatible with the sound produced by the other chimes in the Tower. The intent is to create a set of 40 tones (voices) that can connote through consonance the serenity and nobility of the site while also through dissonance recalling the event that consecrated the site.”

Pellman’s former students Ben Salzman ’14, who worked most closely with Pellman in his role as a digital media specialist at Hamilton, and Jon Bellona ’03 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 have 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.”

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