The Bells Above Campus

If you’ve spent time on campus, you’re probably familiar with the chiming of bells that mark the hour. What you may not be familiar with, however, is that the bells are more than merely a way to mark time, but also a hefty instrument with a long history, otherwise known as the carillon.

According to the UM Carillons page, “A carillon is an instrument of at least 23 bronze bells, arranged in chromatic sequence, so tuned as to produce concordant harmony when multiple bells are sounded together.” Simply put, the bells are tuned specifically to be an instrument; the pitches they produce are intentional. 

On the carillon, the bells are attached to keyboard consoles consisting of a row of batons played with the hands, known as manuals, as well as foot pedals that double part of the manuals’ range. By momentarily depressing a manual or pedal, the player rings the corresponding bell.

The history of carillons began in western Europe several centuries ago, where they were symbols of a town’s wealth and were played on market days and holidays. They have since evolved over time, with most innovation taking place in Europe, becoming what we know them as today. 

On the UM campus, we have two grand carillons (more than 50 bells each): the Baird Carillon housed in Burton Memorial Tower on Central Campus, and the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Carillon within the homonymous tower on North Campus.

Central Campus’ Burton Memorial Tower was built in memory of UM President Marion Leroy Burton. The idea of constructing a tower had been tossed around for decades but was finally made a reality upon the gifting of the carillon bells by UM’s first athletic director, Charles Baird, in 1935. The tower was formally dedicated in December of 1936. For more information about this tower, this link has a brief history and images of the building process. 

North Campus’ Ann and Robert H. Lurie Tower was built in 1996 as a memorial to UM alumnus Robert H. Lurie, and was designed by another UM alumnus, architect Charles Moore. The lowest and largest bells of the carillon are all named after a family member: Robert, Ann, and each of their children.

Contrary to popular belief, the music you hear on the campus carillons is not automated! In fact, the only automated sounds are the aforementioned time markers every fifteen minutes, formally known as Westminster Quarters. Otherwise, you are likely hearing the playing of Dr. Tiffany Ng, Associate Professor of carillon and university carillonist, one of her students, or a local or visiting carillonist. 

In the carillon studio, each student takes private lessons with Dr. Ng and attends a weekly studio class, in which they perform in front of and receive feedback from their peers within the carillon program. This allows students to improve their listening skills, as well as gain new perspectives on their pieces and progress. 

Some students who play and/or enjoy the carillon have formed the Carillon Guild at the University of Michigan. They’ve held themed concerts throughout the past school year, including one for Halloween and another for the Fourth of July, as well as a mini-concert on the Kerrytown Chime. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details about when they’ll be performing again!

Additionally, keep checking the UM Carillons social media, as information may change, but there are currently daily weekday concerts at noon at either tower. You can find more information on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as performances on their Soundcloud and YouTube channel. Images above are courtesy of Reian Zhang (first) and SMTD (rest). 

time for some summer reading!

Welcome to arts, ink., where our student artists and writers are given a forum to illuminate the Michigan student experience through art. Take a few minutes this summer to sit back, relax, and look back on some of our favorite posts from the last year by perusing the Summer 2021 Reading List tag!

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Email us at arts@umich.edu with questions.

A Reflection on Teen Dream, Beach House’s Summer Masterpiece

Despite the title of this piece, Beach House’s third record Teen Dream was actually released in January 2010. It’s hard to believe it’s over a decade old; the songs here still sound fresh, unique, alive. It stands as one of the best albums of the 2010s (Pitchfork even placed it at 21 on their list), and possibly my favorite album of all time. As my final piece for the semester, without getting too sentimental or digressive, this is my love letter to Teen Dream, and the incredible duo that made it.

The record starts with “Zebra”, the animal that makes up the bright, summery album art (which I did not realize for years; I always thought it was just an abstract series of lines). Nonetheless, it’s a perfect introduction to the record, with chiming guitar arpeggios, soaring vocals, and a huge, immersive sound. As cheesy as it sounds, it really feels as if you’re entering the world they’ve built: the sun is out; the weather is warm but not oppressive; life is blissful, almost nauseatingly so.

Immediately after is one of Beach House’s best songs (which is saying something), “Silver Soul”. I don’t know what to say about this song other than it is the closest sonic approximation of pure ecstasy. The guitars, courtesy of member Alex Scally, are surprisingly heavy despite their sweetness, adding to the song’s massive sound in tandem with the thunderous beat, shimmering keys, and cymbals that crash into the mix every so often. It is blindingly bright, explosive, life-affirming music. And that’s even leaving out Victoria Legrand’s vocals and lyrics, which are some of the catchiest I’ve ever heard. As she repeats “It is happening again” over and over throughout the song, it’s hard not to get lost in all the beauty and lovesickness. (Side note: To hear the song in a rather different context, check out “Money Trees” by Kendrick Lamar, in which producer DJ Dahi samples the song’s intro in reverse to create a woozy, intoxicating beat.)

The final chord of “Silver Soul” transitions beautifully into “Norway”, a dreamy track with seasick sliding guitars, sharp background vocals, and a powerful refrain of the titular Scandinavian country. The following “Walk in the Park” is one of my personal favorites on the album, mainly because it’s such a damn well written song. I’ve said quite a bit about the idiosyncratic sound of this record, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge just how fantastic the songwriting is here. Every single hook is an instant earworm, and the lyrics are simultaneously abstract and enchanting, though they can be somewhat hard to make out, as Legrand’s vocals have a similar obscurity to those of fellow dream pop legend Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins. This song is no exception, with Legrand describing the difficulty of moving on with cutting bluntness: “The face that you saw in the door isn’t looking at you anymore / The name that you call in its place isn’t waiting for your embrace / The world that you love to behold cannot hold you anymore”.

The midsection of the album moves in a similarly moody direction, starting with the pulsing “Used to Be”, full of steady snare and pianos that accent the up-beat. The 2008 single version of this track, released on their 2017 B-sides album, is noticeably different with its distorted beats and lo-fi aesthetics, and while it’s still a good song, I think the album version fits much better with Teen Dream‘s aesthetic. “Lover of Mine” is a unique song in the band’s catalog, mainly in that it sounds strikingly direct. Scally works in some of his most tasteful guitar lines to date, and Legrand’s ominous harmonies on the chorus near a howl. It’s impressive how both members are able to show such skill in moving between restraint and catharsis. The seventh song, “Better Times”, pulls things back a bit for a piece for swaying indie pop, and a welcome moment of rest before the album’s final moments.

I’m pretty sure “10 Mile Stereo” used to be one of my least favorite Beach House songs. I’m not quite sure why that is; it doesn’t have their signature atmosphere, but that’s likely because it’s the closest thing the album has to a banger. The driving kicks, direct melodies, and increased tempo make it sound like a song perfect for soundtracking a scene of a character driving into the setting sun. The duo gives off incredible energy in their performance, especially Legrand’s vocals, which are nimble, soulful, and commanding as she sings “Limbs parallel, we stood so long we fell / Love’s like a pantheon, it carries on forever”. The song holds such melancholy for being so punchy, and that melancholy only grows as it transitions into “Real Love”, a stunning piano ballad and easily one of their most devastating songs. The opening line is one of my favorite lyrics of theirs for its raw emotion: “I met you somewhere / In a hell beneath the stairs”. The chord progression and vocal melody are nothing short of genius, and Legrand’s performance is a real tearjerker. The song is proof that even without all the sonic bells and whistles, Beach House can still write a hell of a song.

The album closes on the best note I could imagine, and that’s “Take Care”, an amalgamation of everything great that came before it. It’s gorgeous, spectral pop perfection, from the humming keys to the shimmering guitars to the sticky hooks. Legrand’s lyrics are deeply romantic, so much so I wouldn’t mind having this song played at my wedding one day. My personal favorite line, apart from the titular “I’ll take care of you, if you’d ask me to”, has to be “Hillsides burning, wild-eyed turning / Til we’re running from it” for its depiction of the manic desperation that comes with loving someone. Honestly, I encourage anyone reading to check out the full lyrics, as they’re quite lovely. Sonically, all the duo had been building for the entire record is fully realized here, even to the point of imitation, as after preventing the song’s use in a Volkswagen commercial, the automotive company licensed what was essentially their own copy of the song. Corporate drama aside, you couldn’t really ask for a better, more intense closer. 

And that’s the album. 10 songs and 49 minutes of dreamy, melancholy summertime perfection. Though they have since gone on to make other fantastic releases (the following two records Bloom and Depression Cherry are particularly good), Teen Dream remains Beach House’s crowning achievement in my eyes. Never in my life have I heard such beautiful, organic, awe-inspiring music, at once otherworldly and undeniably human. Listening to it feels like laying in the sun on a summer day: warm, bright, and blissful, but there are those nagging feelings under the surface: nostalgia, angst, naivety, heartbreak, longing for a time and place that doesn’t quite exist. Everything about it is great; it’s well-performed/produced/written, perfectly sequenced, and artfully packaged. In an effort to avoid gushing forever, I’ll just say this: I absolutely love this record, and I don’t think I will ever stop loving it. I am eternally grateful to Beach House for creating such a brilliant work of art, and being one of the reasons I love music to this day.

Study Hal: Week 43 – Celebration Time

Well friends, this is it! The final episode of Study Hal. On May 1st, Hal and I graduated! It looked like a beautiful day, so Hal tried to watch the ceremony outside (like he would have if he were at the Big House). Unfortunately, he ran into some familiar problems… I guess it’s nice to know that even when everything seems up in the air, there are constants that carry on.

I want to personally thank you for watching the Study Hal series. I started making these videos very nearly a year ago. It started as a fun way to engage with the arts and my school while challenging my creativity. Now, Hal and his world hold a very special place in my heart. Of course, Hal and I will keep in touch, but that sort of thing is always different after graduation.

If you’re new here, you hopped on just in time for the end! Hal is a U-M graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, but he worked and studied from home this past academic year! You can find the rest of the videos on the Study Hal tag. I am also a U-M graduate, but with a degree in art and design. If you’d like to keep up with me, you can find me on Instagram @lrmull!

+KHAOS+ EP.24: LAST MISSION OF KHAOS: LOVE

+KHAOS+ EP.24: LAST MISSION OF KHAOS: LOVE

+KHAOS+ EP.24: LAST MISSION OF KHAOS: LOVE

Meanwhile Earth is being taken over by Ingenium’s parasitic robots, Khaos (the spaceship) continues to drift away into space. Ingenium stands beside a mysterious bandaged figure, gently taking care of it. Zero watches from a distance, as the ship prepares to head towards another destination.

+Author’s Comment+

Last episode of +KHAOS+ for this semester! Through +KHAOS+, I was able to grow not only as an artist but also as a storyteller. I hope everyone has a wonderful summer break!

Feel free to follow my Instagram art account: @kats.art.folder