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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Professor Alex Caldiero in his office April 28. Caldiero is a "sonosopher" \— a word he coined. "The expression of God comes through sound," he said.

OREM — Alex Caldiero listens to sound differently than others.

He regards the Karl G. Maeser building on Brigham Young University's campus as "an incredible instrument."

Lecturing there is a sonic event, he says.

Coyote Gulch, south of Escalante, with its natural arch and dome rock formations, has unusual sonic qualities that continually beckon Caldiero to explore and record there.

He describes the Donner-Reed Museum in Grantsville as full of dead things with sound qualities that are alive.

Caldiero, is a "sonosopher" — a word he coined. The humanities, ethics and values professor at Utah Valley State College also calls himself a "word shaker" by the way he uses words in his poetry and performances and his influence on students to take art in new directions.

Words have power, he says, while sound itself is at the root of creation and reality.

"I stretch them, I kick them around, they kick me around," he said. "The expression of God comes through sound."

Sonosophy is the inquiry manifest in what he creates, documents and experiences. It's found in his poetry, visual arts and performances. His work involves how it affects people and why.

Caldiero is also known as UVSC's artist in residence. He is an easily recognized figure on campus with a chest-length salt-and-pepper beard and penetrating eyes.

Born in Sicily 59 years ago, Caldiero's father was a cabinet maker, "an artisan," Caldiero said. In 1958 the family moved to New York. He was raised in Manhattan and Brooklyn. "I'm an immigrant. The Statue of Liberty is like Mecca," he said.

Every year the family would go to Liberty Island and have a picnic and see the statue. It was a special day and a reverent occasion.

Caldiero left home in 1973 when he married Setenay Sein, whom he met at Queens College in Flushing, N.Y. She brought a new perspective into his life. Her folks were from Russia and escaped the tyranny of Stalin when they moved to Germany where they were placed in an internment camp. Eventually they moved to Turkey where she was born in 1953. In 1980 the couple and their children moved to Utah after converting to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I was part of the gathering," he said of his Utah move. "Only I was 150 years too late."

Nonetheless his family of five children, now adults, set down roots. He has four grandchildren. Caldiero volunteered for eight years at the Salt Lake LDS Temple, one of the sacred edifices of his life. He has others, all of which he considers temples. His reverence for them includes their sound qualities.

In addition to the Maeser building, Coyote Gulch and the Donner-Reed Museum, he finds the St. Marcos church and monastery in Florence, Italy, has unusual sound qualities. He also includes the La Matrici in Sicily where he worshipped as a child; even the sound in the well on his family's vineyard.

Others include the Pantheon in Rome and the Colosseum.

"All these places are important temples in my life," he said. "They connect me to my fellow humans and to something bigger I don't understand."

His life, his performances and his explorations into sound and words are to become a film done by some of his students. Torben Bernhard and Travis Low are co-directing the film as their senior project. Vegor Pederson is producer.

They have assembled a crew consisting of classmates and wives, who are studying or in the business. Filming began in May. The crew plans on filming in or around the "temples" of Caldiero's life, including New York, Italy and Sicily. Caldiero serves as mentor and collaborator.

"This is not a series of dates and events," Bernhard said. "We've taken classes from him for years. We want to document his work."

"(We want to) see it as (Caldiero) sees it," Low said.

Filming of "The Sonosopher" is expected to be complete in the fall, with the final edit coming in December. Then it goes to film festivals, possibly the Sundance Film Festival in January or to distribution.

Funding is coming from grants and donations with more than $15,000 raised for filming. More is needed for post production, Low said.

Caldiero considers the film a gift from his students and the college where he has taught for seven years.

"I'm as traditional as you can get, and then I'm not," he said. "I believe each one of us is a bundle of contradictions."


E-mail: rodger@desnews.com