The installation is the brainchild of Richard Cooke, a Grammy award winner and a leading pioneer in environmental music. Cooke’s company, Freenotes Harmony Park, based in Durango, Colo., has since installed outdoor instruments in locations throughout the country.
Moab’s collection in Rotary Park started with a single xylophone in 1995, when Cooke was living in Moab. The collection has since expanded to nearly 30 instruments, said Moab City Community Development Director David Olsen, who worked with Cooke on the project.
“We’ve added about one new instrument each year,” Olsen said, noting that Moab’s is the oldest and the largest known collection of public outdoor instruments.
Olsen spoke of the “wow factor” experienced by first-time visitors to the park. Just like the local residents who have enjoyed the park for years, newcomers waste no time in grabbing up the sticks or mallets and beginning to create sounds music, Olsen said.
Cooke and his wife Christy, who is the president of Freenotes Harmony Park, were on hand at Rotary Park on Friday, May 30 as a small crew from The Discovery Channel filmed interviews for the show.
“Percussion instruments are so simple to play,” Cooke said. “There are no wrong notes, and everything is very simple.”
Cooke said the instruments are meant to “invite musical exploration” in people of all ages, and cited several of the many educational, social, and health benefits that playing music provides.
Cooke said the various instruments have been designed to be low-maintenance and highly durable, even under near-constant use and harsh weather conditions.
After the interviews were filmed, Cooke invited the people gathered at the park, including a group of children in Bonnie Nielson’s music class at the Moab Charter School, to play the instruments while the camera crew recorded the action.
The episode of “Innovations,” which is hosted by Ed Begley, Jr., is expected to air in October, according to information on the Freenotes Harmony Park website.