by: L.E. Baskow, The “Friendship Circle” musical sculpture in Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park marks the sister-city relationship between Portland and Sapporo, Japan. It was dedicated in 1990.

Every Friday in Stumptown Stumper, the Portland Tribune offers a trivia question and answer that helps you boost your Rose City IQ.

Q: Which public art piece in Portland plays a 35-minute musical composition that was inspired in part by Asian temple music?

A: Those who frequent Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park might have guessed that it was the two stainless-steel metal sculptures near the Steel Bridge, closest to Northwest Everett Street.

The piece, called 'Friendship Circle,' consists of two 20-foot towers jutting out from raised concrete circles. They were created in 1990 by artist Lee Kelly and his son-in-law, Michael Stirling, a composer.

With speakers built into the topmost sections, the pieces are meant to continuously emit a 35-minute composition by Stirling that uses traditional Japanese instruments and was inspired in part by Asian temple music.

Apparently, however, the music is on only part of the time. The Regional Arts and Culture Council said the music is on a timer that can be turned off if there's a power surge in the area. The public art pieces are all examined during routine maintenance, but the agency depends on the public to report problems as well. Friendship Circle will now be on the list to check, since it's probably overdue for a sound check.

Kelly doesn't mind much. He is pleased, however, that the piece still serves as a dramatic anchor for the north end of the park.

'The way that site works, you really need something to stick up in the air, or nobody would notice it,' he said. 'They could've been four times as big, but the budget stopped.'

The major source of funds for the $40,000 project came from Sapporo, Portland's sister city in Japan, hence the name 'Friendship Circle.'

Five years after completing the piece, Kelly returned the international gift with an installation reminiscent of spawning salmon, which is mounted on one of Sapporo's bridges, he said. It does not play music, however.

'Friendship Circle' is unique for that reason. Two other public art pieces in Portland produce musical elements - one with light-driven sound on the west-side light rail, and the temple bell project near the Oregon Convention Center - but 'Friendship Circle' is the only one that plays a composition, art managers say.

Next week's Stumper: Why do many of the city's postal addresses, especially in Southwest Portland, include a zero in front of them? Why not just use the three digits?

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