Campanology Symposium 2017: Program & Registration

Resonance and Remembrance: An Interdisciplinary Campanology Symposium
March 31 to April 2, 2017
@gobluebells #UMcarillons

[download PDF of full program]

Locations: Burton Memorial Tower (230 N. Ingalls St.), Rackham Building (915 E. Washington St.), North Quadrangle (105 S. State St.), E.V. Moore Building (1100 Baits Dr.), Lurie Tower (1230 Murfin Ave.)

Organizers: Tiffany Ng, Assistant Professor of Carillon and University Carillonist, and John Granzow, Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Technology

PRIORITY REGISTRATION deadline of Tuesday, March 28 (Only attending the keynote? Registration not required.)

Schedule Overview

Friday, March 31 – North Campus

  • 4:30 pm – Shuttle from Holiday Inn to E.V. Moore Building
  • 4:30 pm – Registration in Soderquist Atrium, E.V. Moore Building
  • 5 pm – Opening Talk: “Two Fists + Two Feet: Concretist Experiments in Algorithmic Composition for Carillon,” Jeffrey Treviño (Cal State Monterey Bay), Chip Davis Studio (376 Moore Building), co-hosted with the PAT Seminar Series
  • 6:15 pm – Opening Reception, Student Lounge (first floor)
  • Regular campus shuttle departures from Moore Building bus stop (Murfin and Bonisteel) to Central Campus and downtown Ann Arbor restaurants
  • 7:30 pm – Return shuttle from E.V. Moore Building to Holiday Inn

Saturday – Central Campus

  • 8:45 am – Shuttle from Holiday Inn to Rackham Building
  • 9:00 am –  Registration (Rackham Building, 4th floor)
  • 9:30 am – 11:00 am – Panel 1: The New Time of Bells (Rackham West Conference Room)
  • 11 am – 12 pm – Poster session (Rackham East Conference Room)
  • 12 pm – 12:30 pm – Recital on the Charles Baird Carillon: “Closing the Loop: The Carillon and Audience Agency” (Listening space: Rackham West Terrace, watch via Facebook livestream)
  • 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm – Lunch on your own
  • 1:30 pm – 3 pm – Panel 2: Clangorous Bells in Institutional Soundscapes (Rackham West Conference Room)
  • 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm – Open Tower (10th floor observation level, Burton Memorial Tower)
  • 3:30 pm – 4:00 pm – Reception (Erlicher Room, 3100 North Quadrangle, use entrance on Washington St)
  • 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm – Keynote: “Metalogue: What is a Bell?”, Steven Feld (School for Advanced Research) with Rahim AlHaj, oud (Erlicher Room, 3100 North Quadrangle)
  • 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm –  Dinner on your own
  • Complimentary U-M transit option:
    • 7:35 pm: Northwood campus shuttle from bus stop outside the Power Center for the Performing Arts (121 Fletcher St) to Pierpont Commons bus stop (across the street from E.V. Moore Building)
  • 8:00 pm: Concert: Multichannel Campanology – Chip Davis Studio, E.V. Moore Building

Sunday – North Campus

  • 8:30 am – Shuttle from Holiday Inn to E.V. Moore Building
  • 9:00 am – 10:30 am – Panel 3: The Transformation of Bells in Text, Faith, and Time (Watkins Lecture Hall, 1350 Moore)
  • 10:30 am – 10:45 am: Coffee in Soderquist Atrium
  • 10:45 am – 12 pm: Closing Roundtable: “Mapping Bells Across Disciplinary Boundaries” (1350 Moore)
  • 12:00 pm: Boxed lunch in Kevreson Rehearsal Hall (1320 Moore)
  • 12:30 pm: Open tower tours of Ann & Robert H. Lurie Carillon


A Carillon Lab for the 21st Century: A Yearlong Carillon Initiative

Bells sonify the passing of time and create an auditory space of collective listening. At the University of Michigan, the ringing of the Westminster Quarters offers a sonic remembrance of two centuries of campus life every fifteen minutes. We are honored to curate the soundscape of the university’s 2017 bicentennial with this symposium, a series of innovative concerts, and sound installations centering on the Lurie and Burton Tower carillons. Some artistic works explore public listening and how it is transformed in contemporary modes of mediated experience, while others invite new modes of audience interactivity. Combining our iconic towers with audio synthesis, sound diffusion, virtual space, and interdisciplinary scholarship, our series aims to create a third-century campus soundtrack of tradition and innovation.

Over the course of the year, we explore the past, present, and future of U-M’s most iconic public musical tradition. The first half of the series celebrates U-M’s foundational importance to the field of campanology, the study of bells. U-M established the world’s first university carillon program and first master of music degree in campanology, and continues to offer one the world’s leading carillon degree programs. To continue our role into the twenty-first century, we convene Resonance and Remembrance: An Interdisciplinary Campanology Symposium.

Scholars and arts practitioners from literature to engineering are doing groundbreaking work concerning bells, yet have inadequate opportunities to meet each other for interdisciplinary dialogue. This weekend’s symposium brings together scholars and practitioners from acoustics, art history, comparative literature, computer music and audio technology, creative writing, engineering, English, film, history, Japanese studies, literature, the musicologies, and their many intersections with yet other fields. Participants are invited to submit their work for the inaugural issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Campanology, a collaboration between U-M and the Catholic University of Leuven.

On behalf of the Organ Department, Department of Performing Arts Technology, and School of Information, welcome!

-Tiffany Ng and John Granzow


Friday, March 31 (North Campus)

Opening Session

Co-hosted by the Department of Performing Arts Technology

Two Fists + Two Feet: Concretist Experiments in Algorithmic Composition for Carillon
Jeffrey Treviño, Cal State Monterey Bay

During the past four years, in collaboration with carillonist and contemporary carillon music champion Tiffany Ng, I have created several new algorithmically composed works for carillon, which she has widely performed at a variety of international festivals and concerts. Each work relies on a different experiment with generative pattern, and all have been realized using the Abjad API for Formalized Score Control (Baca, Oberholtzer, Trevino; 1997-present), an extension of the widely used Python programming language that enables composers to create scores via an object-oriented model of common practice western music notation. In this presentation, I demonstrate my code-based compositional process and describe the generative mechanisms underlying my work, which range from historical composition techniques — such as prolation canon and arpeggiation based on harmonic verticalities — to novel conceptual experiments, such as metaphors of rhythmic noise and melodic nesting via search algorithms. I place these abstract materials and developmental strategies in discourse with the instrument’s relatively more concrete physical and timbral restrictions, to frame the tension between abstract pattern and listened or performed physicality as a restorative force in my compositional practice.


Saturday, April 1 (Central Campus)

Panel 1: The New Time of Bells

Chair: John Granzow, University of Michigan

Ringing-in the Postwar Era: Pierre Schaeffer’s Bell Samples in Midcentury Radio Art and Electronic Music
Alexander Stalarow, University of California, Davis

In his radio work Chronique sonore de Paris liberé (1945), Pierre Schaeffer documented Paris’s liberation from the Nazis using sounds captured in the streets, including shouts, cheers, gun-fire, speeches from allied leaders, and a cacophony of sounding church bells. The piece sampled broadcasts produced by Schaeffer’s experimental radio studio during the liberation, including one that urged all Parisian churches to sound their bells continuously for twenty-four hours in celebration of the capital’s renewed freedom. Simultaneously, Parisian radio audiences heard the clanging of nearby church bells and Schaeffer’s manipulated samples of them mixed into radiophonic frescos that featured such voices as General de Gaulle and resistance poet Paul Éluard. Although Schaeffer continued his experiments with bell sounds in the postwar era, his relation to them shifted. Far less interested in their dramatic potential, Schaeffer’s musique concrète compositions explored the objective qualities of bell sounds, cutting them into fragments and manipulating their parts into abstract musical material.

This paper charts this shift by exploring the trajectory of bell sounds in Schaeffer’s career as both a radiophonic artist and musique concrète composer. I argue that in his radio dramas La Coquille à planètes (1943–1944) and Chronique sonore de Paris liberé, bells function in three distinct ways. They invoke humanity, spirituality, and community in the face of the occupation’s horrors, organize dramatic time, and they provide a unique technical challenge for Schaeffer to experiment with mixing their complex timbres with spoken text and incidental music. By comparing these settings of bells to samples in his later compositions, including selections from Cinq études de bruits (1948), Orphée 53 (1953), and Étude aux allures (1958), I argue that however abstracted or even unidentifiable the sample, Schaeffer’s bells continue to resonate with the cultural circumstances of their liberation-era predecessors.


Modal Analysis and Synthesis of the University of Michigan Lurie Carillon
Elliot Kermit Canfield-Dafilou, Stanford University (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics)
Kurt James Werner, Queen’s University Belfast (Sonic Arts Research Centre)

As part of a recent University of Michigan Bicentennial initiative to promote electroacoustic composition for the campus’s two carillons, the university has released a set of audio recordings of the sixty Eijsbouts bells of the Robert & Ann Lurie Carillon. In support of that initiative, we present a modal analysis of these recordings, decomposing the sound of each bell into a sum of decaying sinusoids. Each sinusoid is characterized by a modal frequency, complex amplitude, and exponential decay rate. This analysis yields insight into the timbre of each individual bell as well as the entire carillon as an ensemble, and yields a powerful parametric synthesis model for contemporary composers to create novel bell-based electroacoustic timbres that are consistent with the sound of the Lurie Carillon. This synthesis model can be used in a number of ways. It can be used to resynthesize versions of the original bell recordings with a greatly reduced background noise. It can synthesize bell sounds that match the original timbre but are tuned to different scales or extend the range of the carillon. By applying a damping scale factor one can create bells that ring longer or shorter than the real bells. As part of this project, the raw modal analysis will be made available alongside reference implementations of Lurie-Carillon-based audio synthesis routines in several common computer music programming languages. Our hope is that this modal analysis and set of synthesis examples will provide a useful and inspirational resource for electroacoustic composers wishing to write music for the Lurie Carillon.


Faust Foundry: A Software Kit to Make Bell Physical Models for Musical Applications
Romain Michon, Stanford University (Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics) and Sara R. Martin, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Acoustics Research Center)

Designing physical models of 3D objects for musical applications can be quite challenging for people without a strong background in Digital Signal Processing (DSP). We introduce a series of tools facilitating the prototyping of physical models of Bells for musical applications. After being designed in custom software, Bell models can be turned into virtual musical instruments usable with a wide range of platforms and tools (e.g. Max/MSP, audio plug-ins, web and mobile apps, etc.). This software kit is targeted towards musicians and composers willing to virtually explore the sonic potential of different bells shapes and to easily use them in their tool-chain.

A specific OpenScad library can be used to design a wide range of bell types in a very simple manner using high level parameters. OpenScad is an open- source Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software using a high level functional programming language to specify the shape of any object. OpenScad 3D models are fed to a Python program to generate the corresponding Faust modal physical model by carrying out a Finite Element Analysis (FEA). Faust is a functional programming language for real-time audio synthesis allowing to generate various types of objects such as standalone applications, mobile apps, web apps, plug-ins, etc. for a wide range of platforms. Thus, Faust based physical models produced by our Python program can be easily turned into any of the Faust targets and used for real-time musical performances.

In addition to presenting this software kit, we’ll discuss its limitations related to the use of standard FEA techniques to generate physical models of 3D objects (e.g. the resonance duration “T60” of each mode cannot be computed, etc.). However, we’ll demonstrate that the flexibility and simplicity resulting from the use of this technique greatly exceeds its limitations. Finally, a series of examples will be presented.


Poster Session

(Mis)Remember the Alamo! Contesting Memory with Mission Bells
Michelle Herbelin, University of South Carolina

Since the Texas Revolution of 1835-1836, bells associated with the Alamo have served as a politically and emotionally resonant means of creating imagined bonds between past, present, and future generations. Their varied uses reveal how different constituencies contested the memory of the Alamo. They helped crystallize the Alamo’s role as an indispensable emblem of a singular Texas identity but also as a way to assert the state’s Americanness.

Although scholars have studied the Alamo’s place in historiography and memory, slight attention has been paid to the several Alamo mission bells that resurfaced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After the revolution, individuals, businesses, and churches obtained and in some cases used these bells, but beginning in the 1870s, historical and lineage associations sought to preserve them as relics. Interest climaxed in 1919 with an emotionally-charged ceremony at the Alamo in which one of the original four peals rang to honor the Alamo defenders and Bexar county men killed in World War I and to forge a sonic bond between the audience and the heroic dead. Drawing on campanological scholarship and methodologies from sensory history, this paper examines how these bells were dealt with and the meanings people attached to them. Although none of the celebrated bells were in use at the time of the battle, their connection with the site made them “silent witnesses” to the struggle, acknowledging their Hispanic Catholic provenance while reiterating the battle as the heart of the Alamo narrative.  The interaction between bells—a medium already replete with cultural meaning—and the story and site of the Alamo, promises to be useful to the fields of bell studies, sensory history, and Texas history.


Dutch multicultural city carillon, a  soundscape composition
Ricardo Huisman, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

In this presentation, participants may experience the spatialisation of an electroacoustic soundscape as a sonic intervention to render illustrative cross-links and/or new questions. The goal is to create a personal listening space with high-quality headphone diffusion.


“The Two Towers”: Exploring Meaning, Space, and Sound at the University of Illinois
Jonathon Smith, The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is home to two bell towers: the Altgeld Hall Chime (1920) and the McFarland Memorial Carillon (2009). Since the 1950s, a student organization led by a volunteer chimesmaster has provided tours and concerts for the campus from the Altgeld tower. The McFarland Carillon, however, has had a less-successful career with little public programming. My research investigates the history and contemporary significance of these two instrumentsmy poster will explore the diverse meanings of these bells as sites of public meaning and demonstrate how their performance functions as multivalent sonic signifiers within academic, institutional, and public realms.

From the standpoint of many UIUC community members, the Altgeld Chime represents an expression of student-directed academic participation. Students are responsible for programming and performance; they see their peers as their primary audience and select music popular with fellow students. In addition, they lead tours for students and alumni and have made the chime, located near the center of campus, a popular feature of the UIUC campus community. The McFarland Memorial Carillon, however, strikes many as a marker of distant, inaccessible institutional power. Located on the periphery of campus, the carillon is operated remotely and electronically with minimal student involvement. Early in its history, students even scaled the tower and added an image of a flaming eye, transforming it into a surprisingly convincing “Eye of Sauron.” Through my involvement with the Altgeld Ringers and as a student in the School of Music (which operates the carillon), I have become conscious of a number of ways in which space, politics, and community identity all intersect through the campus bells. My poster will explore how University politics affect the campus soundscape–which is inextricably bound up with students’ identities as Illini.


Sonic Exclusion and Resistance: Bells and Contemporary Music in Colonial Brazilian Mining Towns
Mariane Stanev, University of Michigan

The conversation I seek to incite with this poster establishes a link between the study of bells as material sonic objects and modes of historical, literary, and cultural studies scholarship that make up the field of postcolonial studies. In this poster, I propose a link between sonic practices of church bells in contemporary Brazilian mining towns and colonial exclusionary religious practices. I will use oral history and sonic digital archiving practices to present the historical context in which those mining towns were established. The poster will show two kinds of primary sources: audiovisual records of bells and contemporary music. The first set of samples will be a selection from the archive “Som dos Sinos.” This archive contains an audiovisual catalogue of a “language of bells” and oral histories from mining towns in S.E. Brazil in the colonial era. The audio for the audiovisual samples will be available through headphones and a playback device. Under the images, I will place text linking the emergence of enforceable religious material laws and the cultural/legal exclusion of Indigenous, Afro-Brazilian, and “undesirable” non-catholic Iberian populations in the 15th and 16th centuries. The second set of samples will be a selection from contemporary Brazilian music and culture. Museum-style labels for these samples will demonstrate the continuation of the same exclusionary sonic cultural practices in the “language of bells” from “Som dos Sinos.” In placing both sets of audiovisual samples and explanations side by side on the poster, I will also trace how contemporary rhythms respond to historical sonic oppression. I will introduce an interdisciplinary critical framework that makes it possible to articulate the complexity of enforcement and subversion of sonic exclusionary practices. This project opens a new geopolitical dimension to the field of campanology, showing that bells were a key sonic instrument for violent colonization practices in the “New World.”


Restoration of the Clock Tower at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani (India)
Kartik Nagaraj Sunku, University of Michigan
Rohit John Varghese, University of Texas, Austin

The most iconic landmark in the quaint, little hamlet that is Pilani, India, the BITS Clock-tower brings with it more than half a century’s worth of history, occupying a central place in BITS folklore. As clock-towers go, this specimen is about as unique as they comeits array of ten bells gives it a broad musical range. That it has had to suffer in silence for about thirty years is a deafening tragedy, with reports from its heyday extolling how its chimes could be heard from miles away!

BITS Pilani is one of the premier institutes of engineering in India, set up based on the MIT model of education with a vision to export the idea of MIT to India. Today, it is more than sixty years old and has, in its kitty, the prestige of having the largest clock tower in India. This poster will illustrate how the clock tower was always an integral part of the institute, its unfortunate shutdown, and the current ongoing restoration effort. About 35 years ago, due to an unfortunate incident involving the driving weight of the tower, the tower was deemed dangerous and shut off. Over the last four years, there has been a dedicated student-run initiative to restore this tired behemoth to the pristine glory of yesteryear. Mentored by a group of alumni, they have made great strides, starting from a structural analysis of the building, re-establishing the connections of the carillon mechanism, and tuning the bells. We established a student team for the restoration and avoided professional involvement to keep the university spirit of the project alive. We have not only made progress with re-establishing the connections, but have set up enough instrumentation in order to monitor time across the four walls of the tower, and have actively taken up the challenge of tuning the bells as well.


Reclaim: Hack the Bells 2017 Winning Proposal
Spencer Haney and Karl Ronneburg, University of Michigan

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 ethereal 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…”

Today, the Baird Carillon strains to be heard amidst 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. 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.

We claim this loss of character to be unacceptable, and propose a reclamation of the sonic environment. We are developing 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 loudspeakers inside Burton Tower, the carillon, and carillon processing using Max/MSP in collaboration with Alexander Miller and Rebecca Fisher.


Concert and Open Tower Time

Closing the Loop: The Carillon and Audience Agency
Performers: Tiffany Ng and Isaac Levine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the audience

polartide (2014)
Greg Niemeyer, artist, Berkeley Center for New Media; Chris Chafe, composer, Stanford University Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA); Perrin Meyer, sound designer; Rama Gottfried, musician, Berkeley Center for New Media; Tiffany Ng, carillon

Polartide is a participatory concert about sea level change. To play along, load the website “” on your smartphone or tablet. When the concert begins, press “connect” and then the “+” or “-” tempo buttons to advance the music, which is based on sea water level change since 1993. The carillonist will play the music exactly at the tempo of your clicks. But you are not alone. Can you create order out of chaos by clicking in concert with others? Have fun exploring!

RC Carillon (2016)
Rebecca Fisher and Alex Miller, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Isaac Levine, carillon

The carillon as an instrument is inherently mysterious, locked away in a tower, hidden from public view, its player invisible. We seek to remotely seize control of this behemoth and put it in the hands of the people on the ground. Members of the audience will be provided an opportunity to influence this piece in real time via a human medium.

Bellograms (2017) world premiere
Laura Steenberge, California Institute of the Arts
Tiffany Ng, carillon

For this interactive tower bells installation, symposium participants are invited to submit names and phrases before the concert for a nominal fee. Proceeds will go to the Carillon Enrichment Fund for student instruction.


Panel 2: Clangorous Bells in Institutional Soundscapes

Chair: Christi-Anne Castro, University of Michigan


The Message of the Carillon: The Peace Tower Carillon and Indigenous-Settler Relations in Canada
Patrick Nickleson, University of Toronto

In his 1927 speech “The Message of the Carillon”—which became the name of his collected writings the same year—Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King informed the crowd gathered to celebrate the opening of the Parliament Hill carillon that the tower bells were cast to reproduce the Westminster Chimes: “When… from time to time, we hear the striking of the hours and the quarters, we shall be reminded of the heritage of freedom which has come to us through … British parliamentary institutions.” The inscription on the carillon’s largest bell similarly reminds that this freedom is guaranteed by the “authority of parliament” (Mackenzie King 1927).

        At the time that Mackenzie King gave the speech, and through until the 1990s, children in the Indian Residential Schools system across Canada were constantly reminded that they were not the subjects of this freedom. Many of the schools had bells which made evident that even time was subservient to colonial structure. During testimonials at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, one student reflected on the bells: “There seemed to be bells everywhere. There was the morning bell at seven… then there was a bell for breakfast, one for classes at nine… and others too.” Another student testified that “all around the schoolyard there were fences, beyond which we didn’t set foot. Bells were ringing all day long” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission 2012: 23-4).

In this paper, I consider the distinction between indigenous and settler relationships to bells and carillons in Canada. Drawing on campanological literature (Rombouts 2014 and Corbin 1998), as well as political-aesthetic writing (Robinson 2017 and Rancière 1998 and 2000), I argue that the Peace Tower and its carillon, as prominent symbols of Canadian democracy, must be thought alongside of and in conflict with the ongoing failures of indigenous-settler relations in Canada.


Lyudmila Zhivkova’s Harmony of the Spheres: Bulgaria’s “Bells” Monument and Resonant Postsocialist Remembrances of Times Past
Donna A. Buchanan, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Based on ethnomusicological research conducted in Bulgaria since 2010, this paper examines a late- socialist-era monument called “Kambanite,” or “The Bells,” to expose the politics of memory, irony, and debate aroused by its conception, architecture, and especially, its post-1989 appreciation and depreciation as exemplifying the best and worst of socialist cultural policy. “Kambanite” was erected in Sofia in 1979 by Lyudmila Zhivkova—former Bulgarian premier Todor Zhivkov’s daughter, Bulgaria’s first lady after her mother’s death (1971), and Chair of the Committee for Art and Culture after 1975—in conjunction with both UNESCO’s International Year of the Child, and the events and ideals of her Banner of Peace initiative, launched simultaneously. A dynamic and controversial figure who became enthralled by Asian philosophy and Russian theosophy before her death in 1981, Zhivkova’s numerologically intriguing monument contains 100 bells of various nations, spiraling around a central tower holding, at top, seven large tuned “planetary” bells, and at bottom, a carillon of 19 “singing” bells. As I will show, only children may ring the state bells, each of which bespeaks its own politico-historical narrative, while Bulgarian composers wrote special repertory for the carillon, sonically capturing Zhivkova’s mystical philosophy of universal beauty and cosmic harmony. In 2010, after two decades of deterioration and vandalism, “Kambanite” was renovated with assistance from Zhivkova’s daughter. While today it is once again a popular gathering place for family outings, “Kambanite” nonetheless continues to signify, for many Bulgarians, either the worst excesses of late socialism or a trigger for postcommunist nostalgia. While not constituting a “memory war” of the post-catastrophic sort theorized by historian Alexander Etkind, I suggest that this debate can be understood as a rivalry of remembrance, or even rivalry about remembrance, whose roots lie, paradoxically, in a rhetorical, if not actual, acoustemological quest for peace.


Christian Marclay’s Other Clock: Rhythm, Synchronization, and Habit from Bells to CD
Godfre Leung, St. Cloud State University

This paper will analyze Swiss-born sound and visual artist Christian Marclay’s sporadic work with bells—The Bell and the Glass (2003), Sixty-Four Bells and a Bow (2009), and especially The Clock (1990)—alongside his career-long engagement with reproductive audio playback. I seek to draw a connection between bells’ habitualizing of life-rhythms, from the sacred temporalities of church bells to the secular time of clock towers, to late-twentieth century musical experience in the age of (presumably identical) digital playback.

Commissioned for New Art for New Spaces, the third of a series of three exhibitions to inaugurate the Wexner Art Center at Ohio State University in 1990, The Clock was a site-specific sound installation that acted effectively like a clock tower. Marclay attached twenty-five bell mechanisms (the kind used in fire alarms and school bells) to the section of architect Peter Eisenman’s now-famous decorative metal scaffolding that surrounds a walkway connecting two buildings. The Clock sounded at regular intervals, synchronized to the other bells that could be heard on OSU’s campus.

Marclay’s discussion of the work repeatedly lapses from the disciplinary function of institutional bells (“power rhythm,” as he calls it) to his more well-known critique of the musical recording, which he refers to, à la Jacques Attali or Friedrich Kittler, as a “stockpiling.” The perceiver’s affective experience of The Clock, however, exceeds the abstract quantification of time associated with the work or school bell. Installed in the walkway, The Clock “affects [the perceiver’s] whole body [which] starts to vibrate.” Here, Marclay points to his use of the aggressive sound of the bell beyond its disciplinary function, “as a way to destabilize habits,” continuing that “it’s the destabilizing that annoys people rather than the noise itself.” This aesthetic goal was resumed in the two later bell works, both of which took the form of open-ended graphic scores.



Metalogue: What is a Bell?
Steven Feld, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico
with Rahim AlHaj, oud

Gregory Bateson’s 1972 essay collection Steps to an Ecology of Mind begins with a series of “metalogues,” thought experiments mapping unruly subjects in science and epistemology in the form of conversations with his daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson. These father-daughter metalogues are exercises in how subjects and objects fuse through the dialectical play of conversational structure. At their best, they exemplify how evolutionary complexities are no less emergent processes than the dialogical attempts to reveal them. Inspired by Bateson’s playful excursions into knowledge production, my foray into the material and affective “what-ness” of bells–their relational ontologies– starts with a series of listening conversations with my daughter, Clochanda, and two of her good friends, Mikhail Bakhtin and Michel Foucault. Together we visit with goats and shepherds, sheep and carnivals, campanile and churches, blacksmiths and carillonneurs, and conclude with a live performance encounter featuring oud virtuoso Rahim AlHaj of Baghdad, Iraq, and the World Peace Bell of Newport, Kentucky.


Multichannel Ringing

Chip Davis Studio, E.V. Moore Building
Emcee: John Granzow, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Bats in the Belfry (lecture-recital)
Laura Steenberge, California Institute of the Arts

Wherever there are bells, there are bats.
And wherever there are bats, there are moths.
And wherever there are moths, there are fairies.
And wherever there are fairies there are bells.
Sometimes we can hear those bells, sometimes we cannot.
In this lecture-recital, some of these unhearable bells will be demonstrated, including the bells at the bottom of the sea.

Bell Tower of False Creek (2017)
Randolph Jordan, Concordia University, Montreal

A thick fog gathers under Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge in the winter of 2013, blotting out the gentrified skyline across the waters of False Creek. It’s the centenary of the first systemic clearance of indigenous residents from Kitsilano Indian Reserve on this site in 1913, and one can almost imagine the air filled with the smoke of shelters set ablaze or the chimneys of industry that settled on these shores thereafter. The sounds of transportation have been a mainstay here since rail lines first cut through the reserve in 1899, trains joining churches in the ringing of bells that defined the boundaries of early settler communities. Industrial urbanization would soon step in to sound out the economic heart of the newly incorporated city, replacing the parishes of old and Native communities older still. Today the trains are gone, but the thumping of bridge traffic in the absence of industry reveals the continuingly shifting status of the contested lands underneath.

Bell Tower of False Creek uses the church bell as metaphor for the traffic on Burrard Bridge as it casts an acoustic profile roughly equivalent to the area recently returned to the Squamish Nation as reserve lands in 2002. Recorded on the 40th anniversary of the World Soundscape Project’s first major case study on the city of Vancouver, the film juxtaposes archival recordings of the WSP members in conversation about the city’s endangered sounds with new audiovisual material exploring current indigenous presence around the bridge. Amidst the fog, listeners are invited to imagine the sound of traffic noise recasting the bells of old as markers of territorial boundaries, challenging stereotypical biases against urban noise pollution (typical of the work of early acoustic ecology) in order to rethink narratives that posit the death of indigenous culture in the face of modernization.

Five Bells (2012)
Andrew Stella, The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University

Five Bells is a piece of generative sound art, created from of a collection of field recordings of the historic Gilman Hall bells at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The recordings, taken from a variety of perspectives and distances with regards to the chiming bells, are triggered and layered at a steadily increasing rate, enveloping the listener in sound. While anchored and framed by a background recording and several featured recordings that lend a sense of structure, the piece is otherwise different each time it is played and builds to a chaotic climax before the layers of bells fade one by one.

In the accompanying lecture presentation, I will discuss the inspiration, conception and production of the piece. I’m interested in the societal and practical symbolism of clock tower bells, and in the sense of community that seems to exist among areas that are within the bells’ audible range. I also wonder about the usefulness of the bells in strict temporal terms considering the ubiquity of personal time-keeping devices in our modern age. In layering recordings of the bells chiming, I attempt to briefly disrupt the listener’s perceptual grouping abilities and association of such chiming with the passage of time while also asking how strong that association still is.

Carillon (2015)
Rob Hamilton, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Chris Platz, California College of the Arts

Carillon by Rob Hamilton and Chris Platz is equal parts interactive musical performance environment and distributed virtual instrument. The core interactions in Carillon focus on the control of spinning gears–the heart of the Carillon itself. By interacting with a set of gears floating in the rendered HUD–grabbing, swiping, etc.–a performer speeds up, slow down, and rotates each set of rings in three dimensions. The speed and motion of the gears is used to drive musical sounds and instruments, turning the virtual/physical interactions made by the performers into musical gestures. Each performer controls their own sound, and in concert with other performers, that sound is spatialized around the hall. Carillon was built within the Unreal Engine 4 with support for the Oculus Rift head-mounted display and Leap Motion hand-tracking sensors. Premiered on May 30, 2015 at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall by the Stanford Laptop Orchestra, Carillon was designed to allow multiple performers to interact with the giant virtual bell-tower across the network, controlling the motion of parts of the instrument that generate sound and music. The environment can be explored using an immersive head mounted display (HMD) like the Oculus Rift and Leap Motion hand tracking sensors. Using their hands, players can select parts of the Carillon and set them spinning with gestures in 3D space. As the rings spin on different axes and components of the Carillon are activated and manipulated, parameters of sound and music are changed in real time, creating a musical experience.


Sunday, April 2 (North Campus)

Panel 3: The Transformation of Bells in Text, Faith, and Time

Chair: Tung-Hui Hu, University of Michigan


Suzanne Hancock, Toronto, Canada

I was first inspired to write about bells after listening to Peter Leonhard Braun’s radio documentary, BELLS IN EUROPE, an inquiry that was motivated by his hearing bells ringing while he was with his lover in Zurich.  I had always been aware of the presence of bell-sound in the cities where I lived, but I became even more attuned to the undiscriminating soundscapes after hearing Braun’s work.  

Part of the documentary detailed the fact that during the Second World War, bells throughout Europe were taken from their towers and used to make munitions. At the end of the war, many of the bells were recast and restored to their heights.  I became fascinated by that idea of transformation and how these two manifestations – munitions and bells – are at such extremes from each other despite sharing the same substance.

That idea of transformation seemed a perfect metaphor for the disintegration of a relationship, and in CAST FROM BELLS I also tell the story of a woman leaving her husband.  The book documents how people and things divide and unite, and celebrates the sounds and spaces between the rings of bullets and bells, between anger and celebration.

I will present these ideas through a poetry reading, and a discussion of my interaction with Braun’s documentary. I finished the book as part of my MFA thesis at UM in 2004, and since then I have been working on radio recordings of my own.


Sacred Time and Secular Power: The Bell in French Medieval Arthurian Romance
Madeleine Smith, Wellesley College

This paper examines the bell as textual object within the soundscape of late 12th and early 13th century French romance, including the works of Chrétien de Troyes and an anonymous continuation, Le Haut Livre du Graal. In medieval France, the bell did not simply regulate time; it rang out the Christian faith in a Christian timeframe and thus defined the very space and time of Christendom. However, the advent of civic belfries at the end of the 12th century challenged the bell’s inherently Christian nature. If the bell served as a vehicle for the voice of God, it spoke equally for secular authorities and even delimited political boundaries, limning the divine and the mundane, the secular and the sacred. At a time when the bell began to take on new symbolic and political dimensions, a nascent literary genre–the romance–was flourishing, and the bell started to take shape within an imaginative as well as articulated soundscape. In this literary soundscape, to make a noise was a form of power and sonorous domination equaled political power. This paper will explore how the role of bells in the soundscape of Arthurian romance questions secular power and problematizes the relationship between the medieval Church and conceptions of knighthood. Furthermore, the anonymous continuation of Chrétien’s Le Conte du Graal reveals the limits of Christianity’s power and the need to reconcile knightly violence with Christian faith through the medium of the bell. Ultimately, however, these early medieval romance authors use the soundscape to comment on the oral nature of the text itself. These soundscapes, both of the text and within the text, reveal the game of language and sound at the heart of the medieval literary imagination. As a textual sign (signum), the bell is manipulated to reveal its artifice, much like the romance itself.


The Bells of St. Paul: Nostalgia, Memory, and Change in a City Soundscape
Emilie Coakley, University of Pittsburgh

The use and function of bells in the public sphere—from structuring time, to announcing death, to calling faithful to worship—is as diverse as its history is long.  This paper will interrogate a contemporary shift in the public perception of religiously associated sounds through a case study of bells at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland, Pennsylvania, a city church nestled between two urban university campuses.  Through on-the-street interviews, conversations with local liturgical specialists and scholars, and archival research, I will position this work within existing literature on city soundscapes and the historical function of church bells.  Despite some persistence of traditional associations with and practice of the bells at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland, due to the shifting nature of this city’s population, I posit that the public perception of this sound has become increasingly personalized and secularized.  In this sense, the bells have become an aural marker of place that consistently contributes to and shapes the city soundscape, as associations of how they mark institutional and social time changes. Following Marita Sturken’s work on historical memory and Michael Bull’s ideas of auditory nostalgia, I will track how the ringing bells have come to occupy a contested sound-space, shifting from a hegemonically coded aural presence to a site of optional and individualized association.  Alternative associations with the bells reflect a personalization of experience that echoes George Ritzer’s theory of The McDonaldization of Society, specifically through ideas of efficiency, predictability, and control.  Ultimately, this paper will look at the perception of the bells at St. Paul as an example of the increasingly privatized negotiation of city sound, in dialogue with a history of the function of bells in the public sphere and indicative of an increasingly individual and secular approach to the reception of religiously coded sounds in an city soundscape.


Closing Roundtable: The Sonic Spaces of Interdisciplinarity

Chair: Tiffany Ng, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Recasting the Bell in Noh Dance-Drama: On Desire and Discipline’s Resonance in Dojoji
Reginald Jackson, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

In this presentation I examine the famous Noh showpiece, Dojoji, as a pivot for interdisciplinary scholarship. I focus on the concepts of desire and discipline to consider how this play, which revolves around the lust and violence that erupts—aptly enough—during the rededication ceremony for a Buddhist temple’s central bell, complicates our sense of gender roles and spatial practices within medieval and contemporary Japanese society.


Punishment, an Index
Tung Hui-Hu, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

In this presentation, I read briefly from a poet’s essay on the forgotten history of objects that have been punished for political reasons. As it turns out, there is a long history of inanimate objects put on trial or otherwise subject to state punishment, including trains, javelins, falling statues of the Virgin Mary, wheels, roof beams, skyscrapers, kitchen objects, pirate ships, a 1977 Pontiac parked in Detroit, and bodies of water. Very rarely are these trials a product of animist beliefs, as one might expect. In an age where even “corporations are people, my friend,” as a recent presidential candidate reminds us, these case studies help us define who — and what — we consider human. In the excerpt today, I read two sections on a Russian bell and on several Parisian clock towers swept up in political violence.


Mapping Acoustic Itineraries in Renaissance Florence
Niall Atkinson, University of Chicago

Recent developments in digital visualization technologies promise to enhance our understanding of spatial environments of the past by allowing historians to visualize research data in a number of complex ways.  This project is an attempt to map the temporal and spatial dynamics of the soundscapes of late medieval and Renaissance Florence.  As historians have long demonstrated, both civic and religious rituals in the early modern city were complex visual and aural experiences and my research has suggested that the exchange of voices and bells between a moving body politic and a communicative architecture was a performative phenomenon central to the production of a collective knowledge, urban memory, and communal identity.  The goal of this project, therefore, is not to reconstruct a purely immersive virtual environment, but to use such technologies to map the temporal arc of the city’s ritual itineraries in order to understand how they combined to create the fluid topographies that defined the multiple identities of Renaissance Florentines, identities that were always formed by a particular acoustic mobility.


This symposium is made possible by a generous U-M Bicentennial Activity Grant. Special thanks to Christopher Kendall, James Kibbie, Luc Rombouts, Sile O’Modhrain, Niall Atkinson, Roger Arnett, Marie McCarthy, Sherri Brown, Colin Knapp, Isaac Levine, Jeanette Bierkamp, Tom Erickson, Mary-Alice Wiland, Benjamin Thauland, Heather Currie, Mireille Roddier, and the U-M carillon students for their crucial roles in formulating, planning, and running this event.


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