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Monday February 6th

UNC student seeks to demonstrate visual music with balloon performance

This kid makes music with his balloons.
Buy Photos This kid makes music with his balloons.

Richard Drehoff is crafting stories with music — using balloons.

For a music theory class, the UNC sophomore composed a piece mixing instruments with everyday objects. Now, he says he wants to work toward a concert of songs.

Drehoff’s goal is to educate others on the concept he called “visual music” — telling a story through the live performance of music.

Professor Severine Neff, who taught the course that originally inspired Drehoff, said she encourages students in her classes to find their own voice.

“More than the historic language of the notes — a voice that no one can have but them,” Neff said.

Drehoff said he captured his voice with Carolina blue balloons, a piano and an organ.

He walked into Walgreens looking for inspiration and found the balloons almost immediately.

Drehoff’s piece begins with unaccompanied piano music. Then, five participants blow air into their balloons, creating a sound like that of the wind, he said.

He said that he imagines the balloons as hot air balloons, caught in a storm, represented by the balloons squeakily losing air, then popping.

After each balloon is popped, Drehoff said the five balloon-blowers pound on the piano before the “storm” clears.

At the end, a blower pulls out a new balloon.

Crystal Wu was one of the five students who performed with a balloon instrument in the premiere performance. She was initially skeptical, she said.

Despite initial doubts, Wu said the performance was a success.

“The balloons were definitely the highlight of this piece,” she said.

Drehoff said he seeks to write musical stories like his balloon piece to educate listeners on the power of visual musical performance.

He is currently composing a musical story for Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Drehoff said he hopes to continue composing visual pieces and conduct a performance within a year.

But he said his main goal is to inspire others with the simple things in life — like a Carolina blue balloon.

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