Heavy Metal

New Zealand metal artist Murray Swan is thinking about sculpture a lot differently these days, thanks to his partnership with a suburban Denver music teacher.

Inspired by a request from Tommy Reddicks, music director at Pinnacle Charter School in Federal Heights, Swan created "Voyage of the Dream," an enormous copper, titanium and brass structure that doubles as a musical instrument for up to twelve players. The 1,000-pound work, which stands ten feet high and twenty feet wide, is the result of more than a year of collaboration between the two men, who traded e-mails about the concept while Reddicks's students sold coupon books to finance the project.

"The idea of a metal musical sculpture was intriguing," Swan says. "Sculpture is always 'Don't touch.' To make a piece that looked good but was also functional was great fun."

The duo decided on a canoe-like design to evoke the journey from New Zealand to Colorado. A copper element in front references a waka, a boat used by the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, with great metal waves spraying across the bow; the back is dominated by mountain-shaped designs symbolizing the Rockies. Musical instruments -- electric basses and cellos, cymbals, gongs and chimes -- are incorporated into the design; when coupled with the sculpture's various alloys, they produce a unique sound.

Reddicks and Swan will show off their masterpiece on Thursday, January 27, in a free concert at Pinnacle. And although the reins will eventually be handed over to students, a collection of professional musician friends will play at the unveiling.

"It's one of a kind," Reddicks says proudly. "This will sound like nothing you've heard before."

Swan's artistic voyage will continue beyond Colorado. For his next project, he has placed a sheet of titanium near the crater lake at Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand's largest active volcano. The site, which provided the setting for Mordor in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was also the location of the country's worst rail disaster, after an eruption caused a massive mud-and-rock slide in 1953. Experts predict another slide in 2006. If that prediction comes true, Swan will retrieve his post-eruption battered metal as found art.

"A lot of the inspiration for that idea came from meeting Tommy and this project," Swan says. "I don't know if I would have come up with something like that before."

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Adam Cayton-Holland

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