Hack the Bells Dispatch from Sarah Stierch

21 Jan, 2015

Hack the Bells Dispatch from Sarah Stierch

Sarah Stierch spearheaded Hack the Bells, the world's first carillon remix competition, as part of her position as the BCNM Susan B. Miller Fellow. Here, she describes the experience and the incredible art the competition produced. This blog post was originally published on her blog The Culture Feed on December 13, 2014.

In July, I announced the call for submissions for Hack the Bells, the first international carillon remix competition. Over the course of two months, we received over 30 international submissions. The works, all freely licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license, range from poetry to paintings. Our esteemed jury of cultural visionaries, academics, and talents had quite a challenge on their hands: a challenge to decide who would be the grand prize winner of Hack the Bells, and the recipient of $700 USD and have their work acquired by the University of California Berkeley and Anton Brees Carillon Library.

Congratulations Rama Gottfried, Grand Prize Winner of Hack the Bells!

[Gottfried’s] proposal combines the specificity of the campanile with the specificity of the moment and the listener. This proposal not only celebrates the centennial of the Campanile but also makes the Campanile celebrate it’s place and time.

- Lizzy Jongma, Hack the Bells Juror & Data Manager at the Rijksmuseum

Rama Gottfried’s installation proposal Harmonize [Place] “seeks to transform the campanile from a historical monument of power and an institutional broadcast system to a democratized form of communication and catalyst for reflection by harmonizing the campanile with its environment.” Gottfried, a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley in music, will install omnidirectional microphones around the university campus. The sounds of the campus – whether people made, machine made, or naturally made – will be digitally analyzed as they happen and within moments become the score for the campanile. Perhaps this is a chance for the campanile to finally play it’s part in the Free Speech Movement. Access Gottfried’s winning submission here.

Image credit: Harmonize [Place] data-flow scheme by Rama Gottfried [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Fabric, performance and sound: three unique runner-up winners
Our jury also had the challenge of selecting three runner-up prize winners, all who would receive prizes of $100 USD. These winners are:

David Cooper: Moral Center

Cooper’s Moral Center is a remix in the musical tradition – Cooper brings together samples from the Hack the Bells Sample Library, and original music and lyrics, to create a delightful pop “diddy” (to quote juror Alex Freeman of the New Media Consortium) that is perfectly primed for one’s open license digital music library. Carillon Indie Pop music anyone?

Monica Hansel: Wave

Hansel made the coziest of all submissions – Wave is a scarf, knit by Hansel, that depicts a sound wave “using a technique that shows the waveform when the scarf is tilted just so.” The knit shades celebrate UC Berkeley’s Blue and Gold school colors. Perfect for a winter campanile night concert, the scarf was an overall favorite among jury members.

Linda Pointer: Theater Piece for Berkeley

In August we received a box at the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM). Inside that box was a magical world from the mind of Linda Pointer. BCNM Program Officer Lara Markstein carefully photographed each piece of the submission, to provide access to our international jury. A 12-minute long interactive performance piece, the work features Fixed Patterns of Distant Stars by Jen Wang as performed by Tiffany Ng, and celebrates the history of Sather Tower and the campanile, and engages the public to participate. One of the most unique submissions, Pointer’s piece was described as “refreshing,” and believed by juror, and internationally acclaimed carillonist and violinist, Frank Steijns, as having the “strongest connection to the Campanile.”

Image Credit: Theater Piece for Berkeley by Linda Pointer [CC BY-SA 4.0"], via Wikimedia Commons

Hack the Bells submissions are available on Wikimedia Commons!

Now you can explore, remix, reuse and share 31 Hack the Bells submissions via Wikimedia Commons. Find them all here. You can also read BCNM’s official press release for the contest here and a nice shout out about the contest from ARLIS NA here.

Thank you

Despite my many super hero powers, one can’t implement an international art contest all alone – or at least, not successfully. Thank you to:

Lara Markstein, Program Officer, Berkeley Center for New Media – I am forever grateful for your guidance, patience, understanding, and remarkable amount of energy. You didn’t think I was out of my mind when I said I wanted to hack the bells upon my first day on campus. Thank you.

Tiffany Ng, Visiting Instructor of Music History at St. Olaf College – A remarkable talent, a goddess of the bells, and a devoted and passionate student – without your connections, positive attitude, talent, and drive, this project would have not succeeded. I cried when you invited me to ring the noon bell at the campanile. Thank you.
Image Credit: Tiffany Ng in her element by Sarah Stierch [CC BY SA 4.0]

Cesar Torres, PhD student in Computer Science, Berkeley Center for New Media – Our digital presence would be pathetic without your creativity, skill, and patience. Thank you for your speedy responsiveness and keeping us organized, too!

A most amazing jury – I am in awe that you all agreed to come together to participate – your thoughts, knowledge, dedication and perspectives are legendary. Thank you:

Jeff Davis, UC Berkeley University Carillonist

Alex Freeman, Director of Special Projects at the New Media Consortium

Lizzy Jongma, Data Manager at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Susan Miller, Associate Director of The Consortium for Interdisciplinary Research

Greg Niemeyer, Director of the UC Berkeley Center for New Media

Frank Steijns, carillonneur at Maastricht, Weert, and Heerlen, The Netherlands

Our sponsors: the Berkeley Center for New Media, Anton Brees Carillon Library, Meyer Sound, the Open Knowledge Foundation’s OpenGLAM initiative, The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, and the Hargrove Music Library at UC Berkeley.

And all of the artists – without you, this would not have been a successful competition!

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
-John Donne