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April 02, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-04-02

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, April 2, 2007 - SA

ARTS IN BRIEF

MUSIC
'Lawns' just a
good workout
Panther
Secret Lawns
Fryk Beat
Panther's trademark is what he
likes to call "floor dancing." This
involves convulsing while supine,
performing cheerleading moves,
fist pumping, maybe variations on
the worm. But when you're trying
to release an album without any
visual accompaniment, the stage
hysterics just don't translate.
Secret Lawns shows us what
the Fiery Furnaces would be like
without the lyrical qualities of
the Friedbergers. On "Here We
Stand" cacophonous background
junk from synths and drum
machines feels scattered and
forced even before the derivative
lyrics begin.
The album suffers another
defeat with "Rely on Scent."
An obnoxiously syncopated riff
(vaguely reminiscent of Super
Mario) meets dreadful lyrics:
"These people didn't invite you /
They had a piece of pie / And you
could smell the scent / And you
could smell thatscent." Later, Pan-

University alum Steven Ball plays the carillon in Central Campus's Burton Memorial Tower.

Instrument of the people

ferc reorrs to vocal v ariationsor
the word "oh" - it's like Beyonce's
"Crazy in Love" without the pop
or sex appeal.
Though it's rare, Panther does
have some better selling points.
"How Well Can You Swim" offers
a hypnotic lyrical drone, meshed
together with layered vocal
wails - almost like a TV on the
Radio effort - held together by
snappy drum machine. The song
is intermittently chopped apart
by strangely appropriate sounds
of shattering glass. The track
remains danceable throughout
and never slips into boredom or
complete obnoxiousness.
Secret Lawns would better
serve as the accompaniment than
as the main feature. Even if floor
dancing is the next big craze -
and Panther certainly has it down
to near perfection - maybe he'd
be better off releasing a work-out
video as opposed to an album.
MATT EMERY

By ABIGAIL B. COLODNER
DailyFineArts Editor
At noon, the sound of bells
chimes over campus, marking the
time with 12 strokes. Moments
later the air fills with music, be it
Handel or the "Star Wars" theme.
Each weekday, from noon to 12:30
p.m., the public recitals fill the air
with different music. It comes like a
gift from the sky, without explana-
tion, although some curious pedes-
trians may stop to wonder about
the source. Steven Ball knows what
goes through their heads: "Miscon-
ception No. 1: Where are the speak-
ers?"
Music from the Burton Memorial
Tower means that someone has sat
down at an oversized keyboard of
levers that strike the tower's mas-
sive bronze bells, or "carillons."
Ball is a graduate student
instructor inthe University's Caril-
lon Department, the first of its kind
in the country, and a carillon per-
former - or carillonneur - him-
self. About 25 University students,
undergraduates and graduates, are
enrolled in his credited carillon
class, which is open to audition to
any University student with expe-
rience on a keyboard instrument.
Although all music from the
tower is performed live, the chimes
marking the quarter-hours and
hour are rung automatically, rais-
ing the question of why all the car-
illon sounds aren't programmed.
Ball balked at the idea of trying to
replace carollineurs with a pro-

gram: "It's like playing a huge
Steinway. It would be as ridiculous
as using a player piano to perform
Rachmaninoff," he said.
All bells are not created equal
- carillons are quite distinct from
church bells, for instance. Ball
called the latter "signaling devic-
es," bigger and louder bells used
chiefly to announce events. Those
bells produce noise by being swung,
while carillons are played using a
piano-like keyboard of levers that
are highly sensitive to pressure.
To allow a more delicate touch,
the bells remain stationary and
are struck from within, with the
clappers, some weighing 400 lbs,
attached by wires to the keyboard.
According to Ball, carillon
songs evolved out of the "warning
strikes" given before the hour was
rung, grabbing people's attention
before the time count started. To
distinguish their respective caril-
lons from those of other cities, dif-
ferent towns would elaborate on a
simple warning strike.
"The carillon is originally a civic
instrument, rather than ecclesi-
astical," Ball said. "Later carillon
players were hired by cities." Out of
these utilitarian elaborations grew
both original music for carillon and
adaptations of existing pieces for
the instrument.
The Central Campus bells were
made in England in 1936, the same
year as the Tower. Last Thursday,
evening performances honor-
ing Arthur Miller took place from
North Campus's Lurie Tower, near

the Walgreen Drama Center where
the new Arthur Miller theater
opening was taking place.
Although the Tower houses
classrooms for music courses and
club meetings, Ball said the build-
ing is essentially in service of the
bells.
"The building's purpose is to get
the carillonsoundto campus. Every
part of the architecture is designed
to get that sound out," Ball said.
The guy playing
'Star Wars' during
your lunch.
The ninth floor houses the bells,
the largest of which weighs 12
tons. They can be seen behind the
building's clock face. That space is
open to the public between noon
and 12:45 p.m., when carillonneurs
have their daily public recital. Visi-
tors may walk around the instru-
ments in the open air at the top of
the tower.
"None of the technology up
here post-dates the 16th century,"
Ball said, gesturing to the stacks
of bells. He stood inside one huge
carillon to demonstrate its over-
tones and undertones, gently press-
ing the 400-lb clapper against the
sloping interior. The bell's lowest
tones reverberated inside the bell.
Tapping the surface with one of his

many keys produced a high, buzzy
ringing. Standing in the center of
the bell makes the bell inaudible, as
sound waves cancel each other out.
There are only about 200 car-
illons in the United States, and
they're especially scarce in Europe,
where they originated. Part of their
scarcity because of collateral dam-
age from World War II - Hitler
melted down many bells for their
valuable bronze.
The only threat to the Universi-
ty's bells is the air pollution that,
over time, will degrade the mate-
rial and alter the bells' pitch, bring-
ing the Tower out of tune.
"I really think this is the city's
instrument, the students' instru-
ment - I'd like to see as many
people take advantage of this as
possible," Ball said.
The Tower is remarkably acces-
sible for those who've heard of the
opportunity. In addition, concerts
take place throughout the summer
and even accompany movie screen-
ings.
In another sense, one can take
advantage of "the people's instru-
ment" simply by walking across
campus with your ears open. But
you could also survey the city from
nine stories up, look out over cam-
pus from behind the face of a really
giant clock, and see your daily trek
- and your aural landscape - from
a whole new perspective.

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