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Composer To Create Symphony Based On Sounds Of Golden Gate Bridge

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Golden Gate Bridge

Waves crash against a rock at Baker Beach near the Golden Gate Bridge (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The Marin Symphony has hired a composer to create an opus based on the sounds and noise emanating daily from the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Rather than starting with notes of what does a bridge sound like musically to me, I want to start with just the sounds and not the pitches, so to speak,” said composer Rob Kapilow, host of the National Public Radio program “What Makes It Great.”

Kapilow has been listening to the bridge as roadway joints clang beneath traffic and cyclists whiz by sightseers snapping pictures of San Francisco Bay on the promenade.

“There is a symphony happening right in front of your nose every day. All you have to do is listen,” Kapilow said.

KCBS’ Margie Shafer Reports:

In Kapilow’s vision for the Golden Gate Opus commissioned by the Marin Symphony for the bridge’s 75th anniversary in 2012, the actual sounds of the Golden Gate Bridge will serve as core components for the melodies and harmonies he will eventually compose.

Maintenance workers have fired up emergency generators, air compressors and sledge hammers to satisfy an artistic curiosity that at first blush can be intimidating.

“You go up to an electrician who’s sort of working with their welding, and you say, hi I’m here to write a symphony for the Marin Symphony. And there’s that moment where you think, where can I go first to get away from this conversation?” Kapilow said.

“But then once you start asking, what are the coolest sounds you produce here? They become kids in a toy store.”

Kapilow has spent time with toll collectors and taken boat rides under the bridge to collect sounds that collaborator Fred Newman, the sound man from Prairie Home Companion, will help mix with the orchestra and chorus.

“It was one of those fog ridden days, very atmospheric,” he said.

Yet Kapilow’s goal is to avoid the cliché once he finally sits down to compose in June. So he has sought out the opinions of veterans, school children as well as commuters.

He even sat down with relatives of those who have committed suicide by jumping from the bridge. One family shared words from their daughter whose suicide note read, “I am Broken.”

“That’s going to be part of the piece,” Kapilow said.

He hopes to post snippets of the composition in progress online as he composes so that the community that uses the Golden Gate Bridge becomes engaged with his creative process at every stage.

Ideas can be submitted on the Golden Gate Opus Facebook page.

The Golden Gate Opus will be performed in May, 2012.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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