Flea Market Treasures – LOCC Blog

By Tanner Porter
October 9, 2023 

Our first month here in Louisville as a part of the LO (Louisville Orchestra) Creators Corps was a fantastic whirlwind. After arriving in late August, my fellow Creators and I launched wholeheartedly into introductions to both the Orchestra and the city, exploring the many beautiful venues, parks, and eateries that Louisville offers. 

In those first weeks, one of my favorite experiences was attending the Labor Day Flea at the Kentucky Expo Center. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE flea markets, thrift stores, or garage sales. You never know what you are going to find! And WOW was that the case at the Kentucky Flea, where I spied a true treasure out of the corner of my eye — a spectacularly large Waterphone.  

For those unfamiliar, a Waterphone is a metal percussion instrument made up of a resonator bowl and a protruding neck of tines, which are tuned to specific pitches. It is visually very beautiful— as much a sculpture as it is an instrument and is often used in film scores due to the strange and jarring sounds it can make when bowed or struck. When you pour water into the resonator bowl, the notes played can be bent and swirled to a haunting effect. 

I purchased this Flea Market Waterphone from a booth run by Griswold Rubbish Removal, who kindly supplied me with a bit of history on the instrument. The Waterphone had previously belonged to the Louisville Actors Theatre and had been used in several of their productions. I was delighted to learn about this instrument’s history in the Louisville arts scene and gleefully took it home. 

DESCRIPTION: I happily take the Waterphone home from the Kentucky Expo (photo courtesy of my very amused partner.)


DESCRIPTION: The Waterphone is in its new place of honor, in my living room! 

My favorite sound the Waterphone can create is a low, melancholy tone reminiscent of a whale call. It is this sound that I drew on for the music of “Kin,” a recent ballet choregraphed by Claudia Schreier and commissioned by the San Francisco Ballet. “Kin” involved months of incredibly meaningful artistic collaboration with Schreier, culminating with a premiere of the piece by the San Francisco Ballet back in January of 2023. Over many phone calls and email exchanges, Schreier and I shaped the arc of the score; Schreier’s brilliant artistic insights and kind encouragement pushed my abilities as an orchestrator and musical storyteller into new creative territories, and I am truly proud of the work that we were able to do together. 

In the score for “Kin,” I used the Waterphone and its whale-like tones as a private metaphor for echolocation. At different moments in the piece, the Waterphone is bowed, quietly calling out through the orchestra. A melody (the central musical theme of the ballet) responds, and the conversation between these two spurs along the emotional arc and narrative of the piece. This idea of echolocation translated into Schreier’s breathtaking choreography. Throughout the ballet, two lead female leads circle each other in shifting systems of power, navigating their relationships to the world around them and to one another, their choreography echoing back and forth. 

San Francisco Ballet in Schreier’s Kin // © Lindsay Thomas


“Kin” Photography © Lindsay Thomas (@lindsaythomasphoto). Photos courtesy of the San Francisco Ballet. Pictured: Dores André / WanTing Zhao / Aaron Robison / Isaac Hernández / Adrian Zeisel / Andris Kundzins / Ellen Rose Hummel / Isabella DeVivo / João Percilio da Silva / Lucas Erni / Mingxuan Wang / Norika Matsuyama / Olivia Brothers / Pemberley Ann Olson / Samantha Bristow / Steven Morse


These central ideas feel very appropriate to the theme of the Louisville Orchestra’s “Lasting Legacies” concerts. On October 13th and 14th, the LO will play an excerpt of “Kin” as a part of these concerts. Given its role in the score, I have asked if we can use the Waterphone, which I have just purchased for the concerts, and I have my fingers crossed that this little bit of Louisville history will make it back onto the stage.  

DESCRIPTION: I try my hand at playing the Waterphone.


The “Lasting Legacies” concerts feature incredible works by my fellow Creators, Nkeiru Okoye and Alex Berko, as well as a beautiful piano concert by Gabriel Kahane played by Jeffrey Kahane, and a wonderful piece by John Adams—all conducted by Maestro Teddy Abrams and executed by your Louisville Orchestra. 


Coffee Concert: Lasting Legacies
October 13 @ 11:00am
Whitney Concert Hall

NiteLites Concert: Lasting Legacies
October 13 @ 7:30 pm
Ogle Center

Classics Concert: Lasting Legacies
October 13 @ 7:30pm
Whitney Concert Hall


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