Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
The Roanoke Times|File 2013
Outside the new offices of the Roanoke Symphony at 128 E. Campbell Ave. is a special, musical crosswalk.
Monday, September 2, 2013
Q: The new offices of the Roanoke Symphony (128 E. Campbell Ave.) have a special musical crosswalk. I can read music, and can tell you that the notes spell (bass clef) “B-E-A-D-E-D-B-A-G” and (treble clef) “F-E-E-D-B-A-G” but I couldn’t recognize the tune. Is it supposed to be a tune? Or is it just an homage to the wonderful shopping/eating you can find in downtown Roanoke?
Please get to the bottom of this mystery.
Roanoke, formerly of Lincoln, Neb.
A: Thanks for doing a lot of the legwork on this question, Allison. I’ve walked through that crosswalk a few times and never took the time to identify the musical message embedded in it. It does not, alas, contain the opening notes to “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, which would, I think, be appropriate.
It was commissioned as a project of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra to help commemorate the move into new offices. It was a collaborative project of the city, RSO, and a local artist. The city’s transportation manager Mark Jamison and Arts and Culture Coordinator Susan Jennings paved the way with permits and technical support, and they enlisted the help of Mim Young, who executed the design and installation.
The musical staff and notes were fabricated by Young out of the same thermoplastic material embedded with reflective glass beads used for other pavement markings.
Young has been a big supporter of efforts to create more public art initiatives in the city through RAMP, the Roanoke Art Mural Project. You might have seen their murals in Grandin Village on the side of CUPS coffee or the latest one on The Water Heater building on Fifth Street Southwest next to the convenience store at the intersection of Fifth and Elm. There’s another on the outside wall of the Garden City Recreation Center on Yellow Mountain Road.
All of those are by Toobz Noel, and if you’ve been to Valley View Mall recently you might have seen a giant 53-foot-wide work in progress by Craig County High School art teacher Jonathan Murrill.
RAMP’s goal is to encourage more citizens to propose ideas for murals and art projects, and Young and her group are happy to help folks figure out how to proceed. Photos of all of the RAMP projects to date can be seen on their Facebook page: facebook.com/artmuralproject.
But back to your question. Young knew from the start that the symphony’s design for the crosswalk would include musical notes, and she set about trying to use the letters in the scale for a simple message. She didn’t try to make it a complicated musical score, deciding instead to focus on creating words with the notes.
The treble clef side, starting in front of the RSO offices and looking southeast, does spell out the words FEED BAG, and from the other side of the street the bass clef notes spell BEADED BAG.
Young says that these allude to the fact that the nearby Roanoke City Market Building used to be home to butchers and live animal vendors who came into town in horse drawn wagons and “put on the feedbag” for their horses while working. BEADED BAG is an homage to the retail behemoths of Heironimus and other department stores that drew citizens downtown to shop for clothes and accessories.
It can also be seen as a nod to the fact that today you can “put on the feedbag” in the food court and at so many great restaurants downtown, or shop in boutiques that line the market area.
As for the tunes created by the notes, I took a few minutes and recorded the sounds they represent using my iPad. It’s not a very professional effort, but it will give you an idea of what they sound like (you can find it on the What’s On Your Mind blog). To my ear, both of these melodies could form the basis for some kind of musical composition, and if any readers want to take the time to write the “Crosswalk Song” we can share their efforts online.
If you’ve been wondering about something, call “What’s on Your Mind?” at 777-6476 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.
Look for Tom Landon’s column on Mondays. Visit the blog at blogs.roanoke.com/whatsonyourmind.
Weather JournalWarmth next 2 days hits icy wall