Music Professor’s Work Inspired by Sustainable Instrument | St. Lawrence University

Music Professor’s Work Inspired by Sustainable Instrument

A musical composition written by a St. Lawrence University professor that will be performed at an upcoming festival was inspired by an instrument made with sustainability in mind.

Victor Marquez-Barrios, visiting assistant professor of music, composed “The Fallen Tree,” which will be performed at the McCormick Marimba Festival at the University of South Florida’s School of Music on Jan. 31. The work began when he was commissioned by Alex Smith, a graduate student and percussionist at Michigan State University, who had designed and built a sustainable and affordable marimba made from wood found in Michigan forests.

“I found the motivation behind (his instrument) The Michigandered Marimba so inspiring that I could hardly wait to start writing the piece, which is a feeling that most composers treasure,” Marquez-Barrios said. “But beyond the motivating story, listening to the instrument itself only increased my creative urgency.”

Marquez-Barrios said that the instrument produces a dry, raw sound, which creates a “lack of resonance” that required him to experiment with different mallets and techniques.

“The Fallen Tree can be described as an experiment in the different ways in which sound arises from silence,” he said, “inspired by a project in which life, in the form of a musical instrument, arises from seemingly non-living matter.”

Marquez-Barrios’ work will be performed at the festival by percussionist Kelsey Tamayo, who is also a graduate student at Michigan State.

To see a trailer of the documentary Smith produced about this instrument, visit For more information about the festival, visit