Sonic Plaza, Greenville, NC

Glockenspiel
Ground Cloud
Sonic Gates
Water Wall

1991, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC

Sonic Plaza was originally commissioned in 1991 a part of the 1%-for-Art state budget, under the direction of the North Carolina Arts Council. The piece is composed of four elements which appear along the plaza of East Carolina University.

Sonic Gates enhances the existing classical columns of the plaza entrance. Passing through one of three entrances, will trigger a photo-electric cell, activating a tone from a speaker overhead. The tones are scored to be in consonant harmony, but change in pitch and timbre throughout the day, acting as a “sonic gate” to the plaza, further reinforcing the act of entering and exiting the space.

Percussion Water Wall features 64 water jets arranged in an 8 x 8 grid that play a series of water mist patterns. Patterns are played randomly at a slow, gentle pace, and at other times franctically, in a staccato rhythm. The fountain responds to activity in front of it, using two proximity sensors; when alone, the fountain is “sleeping.” When people pass by, it “awakens” and starts to dance. A quiet sound score accompanies the piece.


Media Glockenspiel within the clockface installed in the plaza’s 85 foot clock tower, sits a circular ring of 20” video monitors. At the center of this ring a monitor displays a set of images of the sun setting or rising around the world over the course of an evening. Icons emerge from the glockenspiel doors four times a day. At dawn, the abstraction of a rooster appears, along with sound of crowing. At noon, a steamwhistle appears, and steam and smoke are emitted, to suggest a “noon whistle.” At sunset, the door opens, revealing an abstraction of a cannon with smoke and the sound of cannonfire, suggesting the University’s “Pirates” icon. At mid-night, a surprise object and sound appears. Acknowledging its academic environment, the piece is designed to be experimented and “played with” by the University’s music and art students.

Ground Cloud In the middle of the plaza, is a circular water-mist cloud installed over a grate that “dances” according to the whim of the wind, at times static or furious. At night, the cloud is illuminated by a large beam of polychromatic light that shines through the grate. As in the other elements, there is sonic accompaniment to the water form.

Project credits:
Jamie Coccolutto/Project Manager, Mark Wong/MIDI Programmer.

Project sponsors:
Apple Computer, Cambridge Soundworks, Rockwell International/Allen-Bradley Photo-switch, ASCO Corporation