December: Sanding metal and a bass marimba by Ben Sloan

Quite a bit of instrument making momentum generated throughout December. Anna Petersen has joined the process equipped with welding skills, knowledge, and gear. The collection of tanks, metal cuffs, and gears were sandblasted to remove rust. The tanks have been cut and turned into metal tongue drums, with tongues at varying lengths, tuned to specific pitches. The sound is a collection of harmonic sustained notes, both meditative and playful. We have a collection of four medium and small tanks, plus a large bronze tank which will be powder coated in the coming months. 

In the last two weeks of the month, I made my way back to Virginia to finish up the frame and keys for the bass marimba. This time around we manufactured a collection of aluminum brackets to house each key. The brackets were cut from a piece of aluminum angle, drilled, rounded, and polished. We milled some pieces of oak for our frame, sanded, added a mortise and tenon joint at each end, and created a nice beveled edge detail. We applied a few finish coats, with a sand in between, and the end result is a beautiful hand crafted bass marimba..that still needs legs and resonators! (coming soon)

Photos of tanks can be found here, and the marimba here

November: Laying the foundation by Ben Sloan


After many phone calls, ample head scratching, and understanding a 4" slump, the plan to pour concrete was in place. Under the guidance of Mike Moore (Creative Remodeling), and help from Ziyad Tooles, Matt Kotlarczyk, plus a crew of neighborhood kids, we knocked out. The whole process took about a week, squeezing steps in between teaching. The first task was to do a bit more digging of the foundation, just enough to create an even site for the pour. We followed that with the construction of a 12' x 12' frame, with rounded corners using luan. The gravel was delivered, shoveled into the frame, and tamped down. Just before the concrete arrived, we wet the ground to give us more time before the concrete cured. Lots of floating and troweling later, the slab was complete. For those interested in seeing the process, you can check out this time-lapse video.

October: Lay out : Clean up : Lay out : Clean up by Ben Sloan

The baddest landscape volunteers you've ever seen.

The baddest landscape volunteers you've ever seen.

September was crazy, and October is no different..I know everyone says that always, but I can say it too.. The school year has started, and I have taken on a job as the pre orchestra/buckets teacher, and site coordinator at MYCincinnati. In between teaching, playing shows, and writing music, I'm also chipping away at the park. 

The main priority as of late has been preparing the park itself, before winter sets in, and the cold prevents landscaping progress. The goal was to clean the park, plant as much as possible, dig the foundation for the instruments, mulch, and lay wood chips for the path to the foundation. But, what seemed like too much, proved to be very manageable with an amazing crew of volunteers from  United Way, and dedicated staff members Ryan Geismar (Human Nature), Marissa Reed (Keep Cincinnati Beautiful), and Sam McKinley (Price Hill Will). On Saturday morning October 8th, a group of about 12 met at Warsaw and McPherson, and knocked out all of the work in just a few hours. Only a few days prior I had laid out the foundation, and the pathway, which was then dug by David Rich of Building Value

The park is looking beautiful and truly beginning to take shape. Next up is the actual concrete pouring of the foundation where the instruments will live! 



September: A Visit to the Scrapyard by Ben Sloan

My good friend, and incredible ceramicist, photographer, painter, and writer Mauri invited me to the alternate universe that is the Moskowitz Brothers full service recycling center. The landscape was wild; huge cranes lifting thousands of pounds of steel and iron, mountains of sinks, boxes of cymbals, and beautiful shapes with rusting colors everywhere. We spent the day digging through each area, pulling out great pieces to become instruments, or an armature for the instruments themselves. 

Mauri has a keen eye for composition, style, and design, so she very quickly pointed out some great finds. The space itself was so inspiring, that I found ideas for instruments began to generate just by walking around... basically I went home with way too much stuff. 

August: Trip to Virginia by Ben Sloan

I spent two weeks in August working on the first few pieces of the park. It was a crash course/brush up on different types of wood, tools, and building techniques. I was fortunate to be under the guidance of my father Stephen Sloan, as we worked in his shop. He is truly a master woodworker, and has seemingly lived 9 lives. As a boy he lived in Japan for a short time, absorbing the beauty of traditional Japanese wood working. He returned home to Tucson Arizona, and as he grew and developed his personal style, a natural fusion of Southwestern, and Japanese aesthetics began to emerge. In the 1970's while living and making furniture in Berkeley, he began to save the old growth trees being felled and burnt to make way for the new vineyard craze throughout the Napa Valley. He milled huge slabs of wood using an Alaskan chainsaw mill and small crew, making weekly deliveries to furniture and cabinet makers, including some of the greats such as George Nakashima and Sam Maloof

Fast forward to August..After much research and head scratching we began to craft a variety tongue drums, and the beginnings of both a concert marimba and bass marimba. The process of making a marimba bar takes careful calculation for initial size, width, and thickness. Once each bar is cut and planed to size, it is then slowly sanded at different points to properly tune both the fundamental pitch, and a series of overtones. As wood is shaved, the pitch lowers, allowing the bar to vibrate more freely. If too much is taken off, the bar dips below the desired pitch, and the wood is rendered useless, fortunately this only happened..twice, or maybe three times. Though still under construction the bass marimba bars are nearing completion! 

Check the gallery below for some of my fathers furniture, and a portrait of an artist (dad) as a young man..

May: DAAP + Vacant Lots Occupied by Ben Sloan

The installation of the Percussion Park is embedded within a larger program, VLO or Vacant Lots Occupied of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful. This summer a special DAAP class led by Joe Girandola (Director, MFA Program: Fine Arts) and Leah Holstein (Professor, Public Art Course) investigated activation of space in conjunction with VLO.

The class researched the site, and developed a variety of proposals to best utilize the space within certain parameters. I was invited to come give a small presentation about my ideas for the park, and take a few questions. What really happened was a long discussion about the space, and then the opportunity to brainstorm with a large group of dedicated and talented architectural, fine arts, urban planning, and industrial design students. So really I had a free consultation with some awesome people. 

April: 8 Project Grants, 8 Big Smiles by Ben Sloan

Check out that cool looking crew of People's Liberty Project Grant winners! April 29th marks the beginning of some amazing projects in Greater Cincinnati. The day was filled with information sessions, website development, coffee, bagels, new pens, and a lot of momentum. Each grantee was paired with a team to help begin the design process for each project, some guidance on next steps, and development of a pitch deck to share. 

I would like to give a special thank you to Renee Kohl, Autumn Heisler, and David Vissman, for the design, advice, and good vibes.

Please take some time to investigate the wide ranging, and incredible projects that are now set in motion: 

Caravan Traveling Sound - Rachelle Caplan

Who 'They' Is - Jasmine Humphries 

Brick Gardens - Domonique Peebles

Your Productions - Rob Wilson

Amazing Urban Adventures - Larry Malott

Access Cincinnati - Kathleen Cail + Nestor Melnyk

It's Just Science - Aaron Greene