Heard Over the Bell

In the United States civic bell towers remain iconic landmarks in large cities and small towns. There was a time when these were the tallest architectural structures – high in the air their artisan-made bells chimed to unify a community around a singular message to gather, heed warning, or celebrate. While these landmarks continue to shape the contemporary cityscape, many of their bells are gone or remain though no longer ring. If the towers do sound it may be through speakers and digital recordings. The messages that scaffold our lives today in the U.S. are scattered bell sounds and personal notifications from our cell phones, not a singular authoritative bell.

The bell tower architecture narrows before it points to the sky, a singular path to the heavens that assimilates and homogenizes; it suggests an individual and hierarchical journey. These towers strike a nostalgic hold while they inflame instincts to unfix and break them apart at the seams; to reveal and be transparent; to explore reconfigurations and flatten hierarchical structures; to serve social justice and community; to reinvent, recreate, ideate, and disrupt; to make room in the soundscape for the many voices that previously could not be heard over the bell.