Skip to main content
Center for the Arts and Humanities Blog

Image courtesy of Mayra Sierra-Rivera '20, Studio art major

blog posts

The Santa Clara Wind Phone

What is the role of music in times of crisis?

By Brian Thorstenson

A man loses his cousin. He misses talking to him, he misses being connected to his cousin. He sets up an old telephone booth, with an unconnected phone, with windows that look onto his garden. He goes to the booth when he wants to “talk” to his cousin. The man, Itaru Sasaki, uses the booth as a way to cope with his cousin’s death. In an interview he says: “Because my thoughts couldn’t be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind.”

SCUWindPhoneSasaki’s original wind phone

After the 2011 Tohoku tsunami, Sasaki opened his wind phone to the public. Since then his phone has received over 30,000 visitors. Other wind phones have since been built all over the world including Oakland, Quebec, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Colorado, British Columbia, and New York.

SCUWindPhoneA Wind Phone in a park in Port Moody’s Pioneer Memorial Park, British Columbia

In January I started work with a group of students from across the university to develop a new play titled “and carry what lingers.” The wind phone became our central image. In conjunction with the play, we built a wind phone on our campus. Placed in the arts plaza between O’Connor and Dowd, the phone is up now, and will remain up for the remainder of the spring quarter.

Santa Clara University’s wind phone, on the Arts corridor between O’Connor and Dowd

In the past three years our country has lost over a million people to the Covid pandemic. In the same time period our campus community has also had its own set of losses, ones that have deeply affected students, staff, and faculty. How can we honor those we’ve lost? How do we begin to grieve? What would you say to friends and family you’ve lost? We hope our wind phone can provide the campus community, and the public, an opportunity to ‘talk’ to someone they’ve lost, for their words “to be carried by the wind.”

A wind phone in the mountains near Dublin, Ireland.

Artistic Production, Human and Community Ties, Arts and Humanities in Times of Crisis, memory blog

Brian Thorstenson is a San Francisco-based writer and teacher. His next project is We Build Houses Here with Detour Dance. He is a Senior Lecturer in Playwriting/Devised Theater at Santa Clara University.