The Last Old Nogales Wall Sounding


Last week on 4/20 I was called in for jury duty but at the last minute was absolved of performing my civic duty.

Faced with an abundance of unexpected free time, I decided to take a trip to the border for one last sounding of the Nogales Wall (W6 Section) before they began tearing it down. 

Instead of playing the wall as I’d often done in the past, this final time I decided to make two simple recordings.

One of the surrounding Nogales Wall sound ecology itself:  The birds, the dogs, the cars, the people, and the wall creaking in the morning sun. LISTEN HERE

And another of the internal sonic environment of the wall and the sounds it both absorbed and emanated as a sprawling acoustic resonator along the arbitrary dividing line between Mexico and The United States.

Engaged in listening with headphones snugly on, I was aware of a vehicle pulling up behind me.

Turning, I saw a white truck from which a man dressed in a white hardhat and wearing a neon yellow vest emblazoned with a castle on the back emerged.

His name I learned was Merrill, although I am not sure of the exact spelling.

Merrill walked over, determined and cautious with a camera at the ready.

"Howdy," I said facing him.

“What we doin?” he asked.

"What's that?" I asked.

"What we doin?" he repeated.

“Um, recording the sound of the wall?” I replied.

"O.K." he said.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm with The Army Corps of Engineers and we're replacing this fence," he said.

And so the conversation began.

I eventually learned his name and that he was an enthusiastic wall builder who did not question why walls were built but rather why walls were not built.

Merill was a man of few words but one thing in particular struck me as very interesting. He said that the The Army Corp of Engineers wanted to build a wall that was “environmental.”

Considering the estimated cost of tearing down the old wall and building the new 2.8 mile wall is roughly $41 million (not including maintenance), I asked him if perhaps the design could have included a few innovative elements which would promote renewable resources and economic stability for people on both sides of the border such as solar panels or rain collection.

(EDITORS NOTE: On the audio I incorrectly say it will cost $4 million for the 2.8 mile wall. From what I've read, that estimate was from 2010 so apparently costs have escalated a bit.)

Merill said ideas such as solar and rain collection had been considered but were rejected.

When I asked him why they were rejected he said I’d need to write my congressional representative about it.

So this past week I sent letters to my congressman, Raul Grijalva, plus Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Senator John McCain and Senator Jon Kyl asking all of them those very same questions (a copy of the letter is attached below).

When and if I learn more I’ll be sure to pass it on.

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Dear XXXX,

My name is Glenn Weyant and since 2006 I’ve been playing The Nogales Wall with a cello bow and implements of mass percussion.  My goal in this process has been to try and transform the wall from a symbol of fear and loathing into one capable of promoting unity and communication.

I’ve also been documenting the changing sound ecology in the border area with regular field recordings.

On April 20, I visited the Nogales Wall for a final recording session before it was dismantled and replaced with the new and improved Nogales Mega-Wall.

During that recording I was approached by a man who said he was from The US Army Corps of Engineers.

While he did not produce any identification nor provide me with a business card, he did say his first name was Merrill (I am assuming I am spelling his name correctly here).

Since I was already in the process of recording the wall and surrounding environment, the conversation we had was documented by the microphones and I’ve enclosed a copy for reference.

Merrill was cordial and enthusiastic about building the new wall and also said one of the goals of the Army Corps of Engineers was to build a wall that was “environmental.”

I thought this odd considering the impacts the walls have already had on riparian areas, pristine desert and migratory routes so far. 

With the cost of the new wall topping roughly $41 million by some estimates, I asked him if any innovative ideas had been considered beside the usual approach of metal and cement.

Two ideas floated during our conversation included solar panels to supply surrounding residents on both sides of the border with electricity for economic development and rain collection for water.

To my surprise Merrill said those ideas were “good” and had been considered but that if I wanted to know more about why they were rejected I’d have to contact my congressional representative.

So I guess that is what I am doing with this letter.

Obviously the wall is deemed necessary for security purposes, but my question is: If we must have a wall then why can’t the wall be used to promote and develop communities and relationships on both sides of the border along the path where it is being built? 

A couple years back I learned of the work of an architect named Ronald Rael and he graciously sent me a series of wall designs which do much more than simply act as speed bumps.

Instead these walls would, in my opinion, help foster stronger economics and good will on both sides of the border --- A PDF is enclosed on the disc.

Any thoughts on these issues would be much appreciated.

Stay tuned and thank you for your time,



Glenn Weyant