Recasting the Tsar Bell

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Amongst all the activities on Cal Day, the Daily Cal featured BCNM’s unveiling of the Tsar Bell, whose electronic replication played in concert with the Campanile in several performances throughout Cal Day. The original bell, damaged in a 1732 fire, remains the heaviest bell ever constructed thought it does not function. On Cal Day, a team of Stanford and Berkeley scientists revealed a simulation of the sound such a bell would make, the culmination of physics, acoustics, engineering, and design research. Reactions on the internet have been swift. From the article:

“According to Niemeyer, Russian citizens remain divided over their perception of the replicated bell sounds — some believe that the researchers “copied” the sound unrightfully. Despite the controversy, Niemeyer maintained that the intent of the project was not malicious, but rather meant to pay homage to the original bell.

“The gesture of American cultural appropriation is dramatic and can be harmful … (but) I feel like for me it’s about pointing back to the origin and honoring the origin in some way,” Niemeyer said.

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Does a bell have to ring before it is truly a bell? The Russian “Tsar Bell” was the largest bell ever cast at over 200 tons. But in 1732, before it was ever struck, this Goliath of bells broke. Its parts have been on display in the Kremlin ever since. A team of UC Berkeley and Stanford researchers made the Tsar Bell ring for the very first time.

Shortly before the public presentation of the sound of the Tsar Bell at noon, the researchers will discuss their methods for recreating the sound that never existed. The panelists will describe technical challenges, creative concepts, and political histories they engaged with during the recreation process, and explain how they got “bell fever”. Demonstrations for all ages will show why bells ring and what the long history of bells tells us about our changing world.

Collaborators (in alphabetical order): Ed Campion, Chris Chafe, Jeff Davis, Olya Dubatova, John Granzow, Perrin Meyer, DJ Spooky and Moderator Greg Niemeyer.

This program is presented in partnership with made@berkeley, highlighting UC-Berkeley’s collaborative achievements across all fields of the arts and design, Meyer Sound, and the Berkeley Center for New Media.