IWU Student Conducts Car Alarm Orchestra
Kate Tombaugh '07 and David Young '07 take their cues from group leader Paul Meiste
'07 as they control their car alarms with remote switches on their key rings, during
the car alarm performance.
April 19, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -Illinois Wesleyan student James Klopfleisch, a junior composition
major, premiered his latest work in a unique setting, the entire IWU campus, and instruments,
car alarms, at 12:01 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, on the IWU campus.
Hear a news story about the performance on WGLT, the Normal, Ill., public radio affiliate.
The piece, titled after T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock," was
performed with alarms from 30 cars. The cars were parked in 13 different locations
around IWU's campus. To conduct his piece Klopfleisch was stationed on the Eckley
Quadrangle, where he met with performers at 11:45 a.m. After synchronizing their
watches, his volunteer performers took their places around campus to man their "instruments."
The entire piece lasted just under two minutes.
Klopfleisch began composing and organizing this piece in November of 2005. Not only
did he carefully map out when and where each alarm was to go off, he also matched
the alarms that have similar tempos and dominant pitches. The performers used their
synchronized watches to begin the piece one alarm at a time and built to a crescendo
of all 30 alarms sounding at once. He said that his piece was "not strictly to shock
or surprise people. It was intended to have them realize that they are inside a large
This piece, inspired by comedian Andy Kaufman, composer John Cage and T.S. Eliot's
poem, is Klopfleisch's second such piece. The first piece was a musical composition
punctuated by the orchestrated coughing of members of the audience.
Klopfleisch hopes that people who heard his work on Wednesday would "not have known
what was going on at first but knew that something is happening, then came to the
gradual realization that a piece of art was being performed."
Contact: Kay Mitchell, (309) 556-3181