I have been told that the departments of Art, among them the department of music, do not suffer from a dearth of gifted applicants. In the field of music, this gives rise to a range of high quality performance groups of a standard comparable to that of professional musicians. To participate in and train for these groups gives credit like ordinary study courses. There is, to mention just a few, a symphony orchestra, a jazz big band (the UC Jazz Ensemble), the University Chorus, the Cal Marching Band. In addition there are training courses with credit for all common, as well as some uncommon instruments. For instance, there are four courses of increasing degree of advancement in the Carillon, which all count for study credit.
You may recall that I promised, at the occasion of my visit to the Campanile (“Mission in sight”), to revisit the tower in order to experience its Carillon in action. Since promises have to be kept, I took the trouble of remounting the edifice on a clear and sunny day at noon. I was not alone, apparently the love of music is more widespread than commonly believed.
How does it all sound? Well, let me first point out that standing besides the carillonneur is not the optimal position, in particular if you are holding a camera and cannot cover your ears with your hands. The sounds are extremely strong and render it impossible to discern the melody actually played. But, even if you are standing at a safe distance of the tower, you may notice a certain discomfort in your hearing. This does not mean that you lack a music ear, quite the opposite. The bells are, due to their construction through founding, unable to produce clear sounds and give off all sorts of very strong over- (and under?) tones. So, when a convoluted tune is being played, notes and harmonies are far from being distinctly heard and tend to merge, which gives rise to the impression that the bells are badly tuned. Therefore it is advisable to keep the playing to simple, easily recognisable tunes, which our young carillonneur happily disregarded. From the note-sheet, looking at the cover picture, you see that the tune played was far from simple. Still, this was a memorable experience.
Stepping down from bell heaven to Campus proper, there is always other music going on somewhere on campus. When I was wandering around Sproul Plaza during the Earth Day week celebrations, for instance, the UCB Octet was performing, once again, and this time on the chairs of Sproul Hall itself. The Choir’s mellow tones chimed in well with the mood of the audience, standing captured at its feed, as if the melancholic music mirrored scant chances of success with getting the American public to accept the need for sustainable development.