Hack The Bells winners: Spencer Haney & Karl Ronneburg’s “Reclaim”

Announcing the 2017 Hack The Bells winners: Spencer Haney & Karl Ronneburg’s “Reclaim”

We’re proud to announce that U-M students Spencer Haney and Karl Ronneburg have won the $1,000 Hack The Bells 2017 prize to realize their proposal, Reclaim, for the U-M Bicentennial this fall! Many thanks to our jurors, including a juror and a winner from the Berkeley Center for New Media‘s 2014 Hack The Bells contest, developed by then-BCNM Susan Miller Fellow Sarah Stierch.

Ronneburg and Haney’s proposal is as follows:

In 1925, the Detroit News described the sound of the future memorial to the late University of Michigan president, Dr. Marion LeRoy Burton: “All shades of tone, from the most etherial and delicate shimmer to a clangor and bold heroism that is dominating and compelling, may be brought from these tons of metal. The tower seems really to have a soul, to live and to erect a mysterious influence over the beholder as its solemn hulk looms against the faint dusk of the sky. It is not a thing of stone and mortar. It has its moods; it is gay; it is weary; it is whispering; it is shouting…”1

Today, when walking through the Central Campus Diag, the Baird Carillon strains to be heard amongst rampant noise pollution. The acoustic environment is drowned in road noise from cars and buses, the drone of regulating machines on the roofs of buildings, the crunch of construction vehicles and the monotonous pacing of hundreds of people en route.2,3

Lost in a sea of noise, the carillon has no voice. Without a voice, the carillon stands only as a monolith, unable to subvert its physical presence as yet another erection of institutional power.4

We claim this loss of character to be unacceptable, and propose a reclamation of the sonic environment that has been lost. We will subvert the rise of a capitalistic soundscape by augmenting the pollution that it creates past a threshold of ignorance. We will bring attention to our environment, and by extension the greater power that has led us into this state of ignorance. That which remains unspoken will be screamed, and will resonant in institutional cavities that block progress.

We propose a recurring performance that will take place in and surrounding Ingalls Mall, compositionally arranging augmented environmental sounds in order to bring attention to the sonic environment of a space that is forgotten. Compositional elements include a caravan of automobiles, a brass ensemble, recordings of the Ann Arbor soundscape played through PA inside Burton Tower, the carillon, and carillon processing using Max/MSP in collaboration with Alexander Miller and Becca Fisher.

This performance would occur at regularly scheduled times on the day of the UM Bicentennial’s carillon event . This performance might sound like some combination of these sounds: mixedsound.m4a, http://bit.ly/2gBqcxn.4,5


1. Allen Schoenfield, “Tons of Tuneful Bells to Call 10,000 to Work at U. of M.” The Detroit News, October 18, 1925, 7. (pictured above)

2. carillon_diag.mp3 ; A recording of Baird Carillon from the University of Michigan Central Campus Diag. December 12, 2016. Recorded by Spencer Haney.

3. R. Murray Schafer, “The Music of the Environment” (1973): “The soundscape of the world is changing. Modern man is beginning to inhabit a world with an acoustical environment radically different from any he has hitherto known. These new sounds, which differ in quality and intensity from those of the past, have already alerted researches to the dangers of the imperialistic spread of more and larger sounds into every corner of man’s life.”

4. Anton Hasell and Neil McLachlan, “The Secular Bell” (2003), Acoustic Ecology Australia http://acousticecologyaustralia.org/symposium2003/ “The secularization of western societies was therefore accompanied by an increasing interest in the musical possibilities of large bells. The scientific analysis of their sound, required to improve their tuning, also led to a progressive demystification of their sounds, and in turn, research into the acoustics of bells raised issues concerning the perceived acoustic qualities of carillon bells as a musical instrument. Furthermore, individuals in multi-cultural, secular societies who are increasingly used to controlling their private acoustical experiences, were not as likely to approve of bell sounds (of any tradition) entering their private space.”

5. mixedsound.m4a ; Mixed sound from a car horn, a carillon bell, and a train. March 31, 2016. Arranged by Spencer Haney.

6. “RC Carillon by Rebecca Fisher and Alex Miller” https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=1cJgQRA6Wxs&feature=youtu.be


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