123: Carillonneur

I took no pictures. I felt awkward snapping shots of my first audience with the great keyboard in Sather Tower. It’s not even that great; it’s just the spare practice keyboard in the library, hidden away from the piercing tolling of the real bells on high. The practice room just feels sacred, though.

You make your way into the rarely used stairwell (tourists take the elevator, which commutes them only between the top floor and the ground) and go up to the first floor. This takes several flights of stairs and a couple of jumpscares from motion-activated lights. You grab your earplugs from the cheerfully lit office (today, I met Thomas, who was using the keyboard in the big room: he’s a third year carillonneur who plans along with the other senior carillonneurs to show us the ropes) and double back to the stairwell, opening that other door and going into the cramped practice room.

I closed the door securely and put on my earplugs. (They were very soft, making them difficult to ram into my ears.) I sat reverently at the bench, centering myself between C and G per Jeff’s instructions.

This is where my memory stops moving linearly, which is ironic in a musical context: music is especially sensitive to the flow of time, more so because it is an abstract auditory experience, rather than a definite, socially charged visual experience like a play or a movie. Books, too, conjure images with words. Music, by and large, is absolute and abstract (not to say it can’t be programmatic, of course, but it tends to be substantially less bent to social convention). But when I sat and  began to play, I really did lose my grip on my reference frame.

I don’t have a natural touch for the carillon – my fists, especially my pinkies, ached at the end of my half-hour’s practice – but I wasn’t dead clumsy, either. Little fragments flowed from my head out through my hands at the keyboard, surprisingly workable in a completely homophonic expression. (The consequence of requiring fists on the keys is that you are very hard-pressed to generate chords, unlike the ten-note, twelve-note possibilities of the piano and friends.) I played little segments of Kiki’s Delivery Service, the tiniest part from the first of Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, a memory from Howl’s Moving Castle, an eerie formless impromptu in D minor, and even a little bit of Eir Aoi’s Sirius. The last one was lots of fun to handle because the bells in the higher register happen to share the same timbre as the chimes in the original recording of the song. I look forward to properly arranging it one day for the carillon.

I threw in the stuttering beginning for Sliced Apple (the first ending theme from Shin Sekai Yori [From the New World]), which worked surprisingly well on the bells. I suspect the same cannot be said for the sostenuto main vocals. The hollow but high-powered melancholy really works.


EDIT: That is all.



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