Faith Adiele is a good friend of mine. She’s an author, and has lived in Pittsburgh for the last seven years, but she is presently (sob!) leaving town for a couple of years to become a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College in Oakland, California. When another Pittsburgher was unable to make a scheduled Kennywood ringtone recording date in late June, Faith stepped up to the plate (before trucking on out of town). She loves amusement, plus, she had never visited the park that everyone talks about so excitedly. Turns out she was the perfect Kennywood ringtone collaborator–she identified two distinct and iconic Kennywood Park (yet polar opposite) sounds for her tones from the amusement spectrum–carousel and roller coaster.
Going out to the park to record audio was quite the treat–largely because Kennywood’s Public Relations Manager Jeff Filicko was our expert guide. As soon as we got to the Merry-Go-Round, we realized we were going to get on an awesome behind-the-scenes tour.
Jeff went straight into the “guts” of the carousel to find out what roll of music was playing (we needed to make sure we weren’t recording any copyrighted material), and what luck! It was a polka roll. Being half-Polish, I was completely delighted by this happystance (a very happy happenstance).
The carousel actually has a Wurlitzer Military Band Organ pumping out its music. The instrument plays music in a fashion similar to a player piano. It’s just that the “Band Organ” also has a xylophone, bass and snare drums. I guess when I was a kid, I never noticed where the music on traditional carousels came from–I was too busy trying to pick out what animal I wanted to ride. Here’s Faith’s Kennywood Merry-Go-Round Tone.
Faith sought Jeff’s expertise regarding the coasters that would make the most interesting sounds for ringtones. Jeff first led us to the Thunderbolt, where we could get close enough to the wooden track to hear the “swoosh” of a good coaster drop and the accompanying screams of the delightfully scared riders.
He then took us to the Phantom’s Revenge (2001, formerly known as the Steel Phantom, a coaster built in 1991). Standing underneath one of its very impressive drops, I was able to record the click, click, clicking of the Phantom’s cars ascending higher and higher into the sky before whooshing down smoothly to take people on the wildest of coaster rides at the park. This Kennywood coaster montage tone is an edit of the best of the best sounds of the Phantom’s Revenge and the Thunderbolt. The name of this track? Tone Phantom Bolt.
We learned some really interesting things from Jeff about the rides Faith identified to be turned into ringtones. For example, the Merry-Go-Round is on the National Register of Historic Places (a fellow named William H. Dentzel handcrafted every wooden detail on the piece in 1926). American carousels rotate counter-clockwise whereas their European cousins rotate clockwise. We also learned that amusement parks redesign and “re-work” roller coasters to increase thrill factors and/or keep coaster aficionados coming back. The Thunderbolt (1968), for example, actually started out as the Pippin (1924). Jeff pointed out the part on the coaster where the Pippin tracks meet the newer Thunderbolt tracks. If you haven’t been on any coasters at Kennywood, this one, for its spectacular views while plunging down into a ravine from whence you can see Pittsburgh’s hilly and industrial landscape, is just breathtaking (and heart-racing).
After I realized how much Jeff knew about the park, I asked him if he’d also be interested in contributing a tone to the project. Would he take us to a sound he thinks of as pure Kennywood/classic amusement park? He picked the Bayren Kurve. “I love the horn sound on this ride. You can hear it clear across the park and parking lot. I thnk it’s a good sound for a ringtone.” I was thrilled with Jeff’s choice since up until now, the project’s not yet included the sound of any kind of transport horns at all.
Jeff explained, “The Kurve is what we call a traditional or flat ride–the themeing is a Swiss Alps or Bobsled ride. This ride was taken out in 2005, and prior to that, it was in the park for 26 years. We brought it back somewhat recently. I chose this ride to share with you because it certainly represents a unique feature of what we call classic amusement parks. We have all kinds of rides here at Kennywood. What’s special is that we have the ability to take rides out for a period of time, put them into storage for a number of years, and then bring them back into the park. That’s a feature of a classic amusement park. A parent 30 years ago might have gone on this ride when he or she was a kid. Today that person can bring their children and share that same experience.” Here’s Jeff’s Bayren Kurve Tone.
Thanks to Kennywood, to Marketing Director Keith Hood, and to Mr. Jeff Filicko for showing us around the park!