SMU composer John Gibson shares some of what inspires him

John Gibson of SMU's Office of Public Affairs is an accomplished composer who fashioned musical instruments from hardware store items to create a special concert for Elliott’s Hardware, a longtime sponsor of the Dallas Wind Symphony.

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Related items  Composer and SMU academic John Gibson has penned scads of musical scores over the years, but nothing quite like this.

 As artist-in-residence for the Dallas Wind Symphony, Gibson was asked to help the group celebrate its 25th anniversary by concocting instruments made from items found at longtime sponsor Elliott’s Hardware. Twenty-seven instruments later, Gibson put together a symphony like no other to debut: his composition Man, Dreams and Hardware.

“It’s about the complex and somewhat cantankerous relationship between God and man and how hardware has shaped the world,” says Gibson, senior writer and producer for integrated marketing at SMU. “It sort of has taken on a life of its own.”

 The piece debuted to a warm reception at the symphony’s April 20 gala at the Meyerson Symphony Center, he says, followed by a hands-on display at Elliott’s in early May. Each instrument, with unique parts and humorous monikers, played a significant role, drawing queries as to how he ever dreamed up such gems.

“Oddly enough, I did have some dreams at night when I would think of an instrument,” he says. “I don’t know where the inspiration came from. Sometimes the name happened before the instrument.”

Those names include the Santiago Calatravatar, a harplike instrument modeled after the namesake Dallas bridge; the sawsophone, made out of circular saw blades; the wazootie, which makes a snoring sound from its surgical glove stretched over a PVC pipe; not to mention the Patuba and Batuba and the PVCiccolo.

But don’t ask him which instrument is his favorite.

“Oh, they’re like children,” says Gibson, who has two grown sons with his wife of 45 years, Dana Adams Gibson. “You have to love them all. But I think perhaps the Snakes Alive!” which is made of drain tubes played by bopping them with grout sponges on sticks.

When Gibson isn’t applying his creative genius to such projects — along with his recognized work scoring band, orchestra and choir music — he enjoys the arts and entertainment about town with his wife, sons and three grandsons.


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