ART BASEL IN HONG KONG

24.03.2016
A glimpse into „So You Are Old by the Time You Reach the Island“, Samson Young’s site-specific multimedia walk incorporating research and recordings from the journey. It premiered on March 24 during Art Basel in Hong Kong.

11.12.2015

Austria

USA

AUSTRALIA

MOMBASA

FEZ

ST. PETERSBURG

LICATA

ROUEN & CANTAL

NUREMBERG TO BYDGOSZCZ

LONDON

MYANMAR

SAMSON YOUNG DEPARTED ON HIS JOURNEY

05.08.2015

03.12.2015 I came to Vienna for the Pummerin — the largest of the bells that adorn the Stephansdom. Due to its fragility the instrument is only tolled a few times a year. The original Pummerin was cast out of 300 cannons that were left behind by the Turks during the Ottoman siege of Vienna. The original Pummerin was destroyed during WWII. In 1952, a new Pummerin was created out of the molten remains of the original bell and Turkish cannons from the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum. I arrived at Stephansplatz early in the morning on national day, and settled in a corner with my art supplies. As with any celebratory occasions that call for a public gathering in Europe these days, there was a general tenseness and a high degree of caution. The police came by to check on me several times. The smaller bells of Stephansdom sounded in a variety of combinations throughout the day. The real special moment came at 5pm, when the infrequently-heard Pummerin first tolled on its own for 15 minutes, and then provided a persistent ostinato to a urgent three-note pattern. The treble and the bass maintained rhythmic independence throughout, each occupying its own temporal space. While smaller bells speak with clarity and can be heard from afar, large bells are mostly felt. They produce waves of deep, voluminous vibration that engulf and ground the soul. How could anybody not find the Pummerin’s sound beautiful, I thought to myself. The profundity of experiences such as these exposes moral relativism as a lie. But then I am reminded of several court cases that I came across in my research, where residents living near bell towers attempted to put a stop to the regular tolling. There could be too much of a beautiful thing. Sound, even a beautiful one, has moments of aggression and does not care to be contained. Ideologies behave in the same manner. The operative logic of moral courage is the extension of invitations, not impositions.

13.11.2015
The Tillman Hall at Clemson University in South Carolina, home to a set of beautiful carillon, was named after the ardent racist and lynch law advocate “Pitchfork” Benjamin Tillman. Earlier this year, the name of the historic tower became the subject of a series of controversies when some among the student population demanded that its name be changed. The discussion heated up considerably after the Charleston church shooting. I have some insight of the inner workings of a university. In situations such as this, the administration invariably defers the responsibility to a task force. Task force is just what its name suggests: the surplus energies of institutional logic. The individual is reduced to a bundle of functions. The process is object-oriented, outcome-focused, strategic, instrumental. (Task force as a terminology was first introduced by the US Navy to describe improvised military manoeuvres.)

And Clemson was once a military college. The original Tillman bell signaled military changes throughout the day. The original bell had since been moved across the street, and the new set of 47-piece carillon is now heard at every quarter hour. Professor Linda Dzuris, the university’s first carillonneur, gave me a tour of the instrument. Carillons are performed by smashing one’s bunched-up fist onto long wood pegs. A single bell can weigh up to thousands of pounds, so a considerable force is required to swing the instrument as there is no electrical assistance. Traditionally, the largest of the bell is tolled on the occasion of the death of a Clemson community member, with each sounding of the bell marking a year lived. The week prior to my visit, the bell tolled for a student who lived to 23. Linda agreed to re-stage it for the recording. She played with a downward stroke that resembled the banging of the fist on a table – it befits the mourning of young, untimely death.

I was to make 2 stops in the US. The first of the two stops was less successful: I intended to record the Korean peace bell at the Angel Gates Park in San Pedro in L.A., which is supposed to ring on Constitution Day. Upon arrival I was informed that the bell will not ring this year, for of the lack of a community partner. I spent a couple of days making sound sketches at the park instead. A small group of frustrated Korean tourists, who learned of the disappointing news upon arrival, vocalized the sound of the bell instead.

To listen to the other recordings from this stop, please visit: soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-la-clemson-usa

18.09.2015 I spent my puberty and formative years in the state of NSW in Australia, at the height of far-right politician Pauline Hanson’s power. I have many unpleasant tales of the lived interiority of ethnicity to tell, but I am determined to never bore you with them. I do not remember. My former assistant Marco used to say when bad things happen, “it’s character building.”

What I do remember with fondness is driving for long distances in the dark, past midnight, to unknown places, to meet unknown people. It was the age of IRC chat-rooms, which facilitated many closeted teenagers’ sexual enlightenment. When urges called I’d wait until the parents are asleep, then sneak out with the family vehicle, map and torch in hand, and drive up to two hours to some random older boy’s or man’s house – mostly white, more often man than boy. In darkness every sound is amplified. Our garage roller shutter made the most ridiculous noise. It is a sound that I had since learnt to associate with the feeling of guilt.

I landed in the airport of Melbourne on a Saturday evening. Five hours of non-stop driving later I reached Darlington Point in rural NSW, a community of 1000 inhabitants, near the college town of Griffith. My purpose was to visit the St. Paul’s Anglican Church, which has in its possession a bell that came from the mission of English Rev. John Brown Gribbles, also known as the Warangesda Mission. The mission, which was established in 1880, provided services and education to the Aborigines of the area until it was disbanded in 1924. In the early 20th century black Australians were essentially barred from public education. School bells all over Australian rung only for white children. Some believed that the mission did good work for the people of Warangesda. But indigenous historian Philippa Scarlett, who I connected to through her blog, contested these claims. In an email she wrote, “Gribble’s dairies recorded that he beat and imprisoned young women…and expulsion was a weapon used throughout the mission’s history. Little boys were beaten.” The quality of the education provided by the mission was uneven. Like the Kengeleni Bell in Mombasa, there had also been attempts by some members of the Warangesda people to repossess the mission bell at St. Paul’s.

I arrived at St. Paul’s severely sleep deprived. Shortly before 9 am I was greeted by Mrs. Hutchins, who rang the bell for me and informed me that Rev. Sue Chilvers will not be joining us. I stepped inside of the modest chapel. Five other members, including Mr. Hutchins, showed up for the morning prayer. I had never attended a service without a clergyman, but I was an Anglican school boy so the proceedings were familiar to me. Afterwards Mrs. Hutchins showed me two beautiful volumes of bible that belonged to the mission. They spoke positively of Gribbles. In the afternoon I interviewed Heather Edwards, the daughter of an original member of the mission. She also spoke well of the mission, and dismissed the bell repossession efforts as misguided. After the mission was disbanded, the children of the mission were relocated to mixed race schools. Heather recounted that at her school, several white families demanded that special “no-blacks” toilets be constructed for their children.

This I do remember: I was the last to step inside of an elevator filled with other school children. A boy towards the back yelled “no Asians in the elevator.” Infuriated, I turned around, searched hard in my head for a counter-insult, but then I said nothing. Had I answered back, the boy would have made my thick accent the new subject of his ridicule. So I worked hard on writing. Writing is not something that comes naturally to me. But it is easier to hide one’s accent on paper.

To listen to the other recordings from this stop, please visit: soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-darlington-point-australia

16.09.2015
Kenya was once a popular tourist destination and a peaceful nation where different beliefs co-existed in harmony. You see this in Mombasa’s rich collection of Hindu temples, mosques, and churches of various denominations. These days, hardly a month goes by without news of exploding grenades, suspected homemade bombs and kidnap attempts. There is a real sense of insecurity wrought by indiscriminate terrorist acts. The day of my arrival was marked by rumors of homemade bombs in a Nairobi shopping mall. My driver seemed on edge and exercised a high degree of caution throughout my stay. On my last day I wanted to make a recording of the midday Adhan, but to be seen with recording equipment near a mosque would put both of us in danger of harassment. We found a parking spot opposite to the mosque. With the vehicle’s tinted windows rolled down, I placed the microphone on the backseat. The driver brought himself a plate of fruit from a nice boy across the street so he could pretend that he just parked to eat his lunch. The boy told us that the merciful call-for-prayers is due in 30 minutes. The rest of the meal passed in an extremely tense silence.

I came to Mombasa to track down a “slave trader warning bell,” but the current whereabouts of the bell and the circumstances surrounding its mysterious disappearance provide a glimpse into the nation’s troubled history. The coastal city was once a major hub of the East African slave trade. A bell tower stands in the district of Kengeleni. Its bell was once used as an alarm to warn townsfolk of the approach of the Arabic slave traders. I was informed by the National Museum of Kenya that the bell had long been stolen. The institution created a vanity fiberglass bell in its place, fenced off the area, and declared the bell tower a national monument. Upon arrival I discovered that the bell tower is now empty, even the fiberglass cast is gone. I was referred by the museum to Mr. Habel, the head priest at the St Emmanuel ACK Church, which is across the street from the Kengeleni Bell Tower. The vanity bell was cast out of the parish’s bell, and the church was built by and for the freed slaves. Mr. Habel in turn connected me to Mr. David Mwambila, a retired clergyman, who told me a wildly different version of the story. According to him, the slave-warning bell had not been stolen, but was moved into the St Emmanuel ACK Church for safekeeping, so that the bell that the church now uses for its service is in fact the original Kengeleni Bell. But this story doesn’t match up with the inscriptions on the church bell, which indicate that it was cast in 1895. The Kengeleni Bell Tower must certainly have predated that? The plot thickens: I visited New Freretown, where the freed slaves and their descendants have been resettled, and spoke with the village’s chief. Apparently in 2007 there was a dispute in the court in which the freed-slave descendants attempted to take ownership of the Emmanuel ACK Church. As the rows intensified the church’s Sunday service was briefly suspended. The New Freretown village chief told me that the community has since dropped the case. He was not forthcoming about the reasons for the decision, but confirmed Mr. Mwambila’s “relocation” story.

Exactly a month ago, the UK finally lifted its travel warning to the coastal regions of Kenya. The town is still pretty much deserted. Here, owners of minivan display texts and graphics to distinguish themselves from other operators. I spotted one that says: “tough times don’t last.” Another one reads: “thy grace is enough for me.”

To listen to the other recordings from this stop, please visit soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-mombasa-kenya

16.09.2015 Fez is an assault on the senses.

From my observations, contemporary political discourse abuses war as a metaphor. The effect is an aura of constant danger, of invisible but ubiquitous foes, an anxiety that results in the relinquishing of the people’s power. From George W. Bush’s War on Terror to China’s recent War on Corruption, we now habitually describe disagreement as combats, and processes of resolution in terms of military strategies. For over a decade now, we have seen how these rhetorical tropes and metaphors often perform the horrific realities they refer to into being.

I came to Fez to visit a “silenced” bell. The bell originally came from the city of Gibraltar, and was a war loot of prince Abu Malik, son of Abu al-Hasan Ali sultan of Morocco, who conquered the then Spanish-occupied coastal region in 1333. In the hand of the Marinid King, the bell was transformed into the perfect metaphor for the Islamic world’s triumph over Christianity. The bell’s tongue was removed. Its body became the core of a chandelier, which was installed at the prayer hall of Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and Religious College – the world’s oldest university. Not only was the musical instrument defaced and silenced, it became a decorative ornament that emits not sound but flickering light. Today, Al-Qarawiyyin is off-limits for non-Muslims. Our local fixer sneaked my recording devices into the mosque underneath his shirt, and with it, he recorded the important Friday midday prayer, in the same room where the bell lamp is now hung.

There are five prayer calls each day, at which time one hears the most amazing multi-directional and multi-channel polyphony, emitting from the numerous mosques in the old town (medina) of Fez. I recorded each of the five prayer calls at a different spot in and near the medina, from the rooftop of the now-abandoned Aben Danan Synagogue, to the top of the ruins of the old city wall.

The sound installation component of the work is also taking shape in my head. It must involve some sort of multi-node timed-operation, a sort of spatialized dissonance in unison. Just last week, Claire Bishop published an article in e-flux that discusses how artist-led-research leads often to a sort of inertia, an indifferent research-has-taken-place statement, but exerts no real opinions. I tend to agree. In his epistle James makes the statement “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). I think the reverse is also true: works without faith – a devotion to a belief – are cynicism.

To listen to the other recordings from this stop, please visit soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-fez

11.09.2015 My purpose in visiting St. Petersburg was both single-minded and something of a mission impossible: to make a clean recording of the bells of the Great Peacock Clock.

Through the good folks at BMW, I submitted a pretty ridiculous request to the Hermitage: I asked the museum to allow me to record the clock in solitude outside of the museum’s opening hours. The museum receives upward of 2 million visitors per year, and the Great Peacock Clock is one of the most valuable gems of the institution and also of the Russian people. There were some initial positive responses but I harbored no hope. A couple of days before I was due in the city, the museum gave us the green light. I was instructed to arrive at the back entrance of the Hermitage 15 minutes before the museum is closed to the general public. It was one of the most remarkable things to have happened to me on what is already an unbelievably rich journey.

The Great Peacock Clock inhabits the dining room where Catherine the Great received her closest military allies and friends. The bird, glittering with gold and precious stones, is a sight to behold. It was the creation of British jeweler James Cox, and arguably his finest. It is musical automata, luxury timepiece, sound installation, and robotic art all coming together in a beautiful sculptural object. It was also General Potemkin’s gift of love to Catherine at the height of their passionate and politically-charged relationship. Upon arrival at the Hermitage I was greeted by Viktor Korobov, the museum’s Head of Restoration (who apparently is the only person in the institution who is allowed to touch the peacock). Viktor carefully unlocked the peacock’s cage. I stepped inside and kneeled underneath its wings. I was so taken that I involuntarily held my breath for a moment. Viktor proceeded to crank the clock to just before the hour, and the peacock began to make the most amazing noises. Heard from up-close there is a cacophony of mechanical and musical sounds, not always harmonious, often aggressive, but always rich in its dissonances and contradictions. It occurred to me that in the pre-recording age, the Great Peacock Clock must have been the thing of myths and legends. We are severely deprived when it comes to vocabularies with which to represent sounds. How does one describe a sound without naming its origin? (Many sound artists had already noted that the English language is notoriously bad in this regard, Chinese is perhaps a little better but that’s another story). The peacock’s performance ended in a melodic quarter-hour chime, which I later discovered is exactly the same as the quarter-hour chime at the Peter and Paul Cathedral, where Catherine was buried. Something that should have been obvious but I learned anew on this trip: devotion produces the most beautiful art.

We are incredibly good at inventing metaphors for things that elude descriptions. I still don’t understand why the people of 19th century rural France cared so much about thunderstorms, but ever since Cantal I have been thinking about the literary soundscape of a “sweet thunder” from the first scene of Midsummer Night’s Dream:

HIPPOLYTA

… Never did I hear

Such gallant chiding: for, besides the groves,

The skies, the fountains, every region near

Seem’d all one mutual cry: I never heard

So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.

The composition that this journey will produce is slowly taking shape in my head. I will probably call the piece such sweet thunder.

To listen to the other recordings from this stop, please visit http://soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-st

07.09.2015 My search for bells brought me to the fishing town of Licata in Southern Sicily. We are currently observing one of the hottest Italian summers on record. The air here has a smell of burnt diesel and rotten fish. The serene beaches that dot the coastline of Licata were among the key military objectives of Operation Husky in WW II. There are different ways of looking at a landscape. One could focus on its beauty, one could also see the terrors of the forces of nature. In 1943 writer and journalist John Hersey accompanied the allied forces on their Sicilian landing as a war correspondent. Returning to America a transformed man, Hersey wrote his first novel “A Bell for Adano”, which won him a Pulitzer Prize. A cinematic adaptation starring John Hodiak and Gene Tierney soon followed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HFkdMS9pLk). While Hemingway’s “paper wars” (his own words) are full of grisly and realistic details, Hersey’s painted romantic and idealized pictures of good people in the worst of times. Adano – a fictional Italian coastal city that was modeled after Licata – lost its city hall bell to the fascists. When the allied forces rolled in, more so than food, shelter, or anything else the people of Adano demanded a new bell. Without their bell, the people of Adano did not know when to bake, to drive, or to work the field. Hersey’s fictional city bell was based on an actual 700 years old bell that once adorned Palazzo Di Citta in Licata, which was melted down by Mussolini for metal and restored after the war. I spent most of my time making recordings and sound sketches of the city bell. I also recorded the bells at the Cathedral of Saint Angelo – the patron saint of the town. In Hersey’s novel, it was through an appearance at the Sant’Angelo that Major Joppolo – the protagonist of the story – gained the trust of the people of Adano. Other locations I made recordings at included Palazzo San Girolamo, the Poliscia Beach, a public square near Cappella de Cristo Nero, and the Castle of Sant’Angelo.

Both the novel and its Hollywood adaptation would come across as historically presumptuous to the contemporary viewer. They were products of a time when the people of America needed reassurance. Today, warfare is widely broadcasted via different media outlets, around-the-clock in live streams of seductive sounds and images. Those of us living in large metropolis do not directly experience the visceral realities of conflicts. I am reminded to tread lightly between romanticisation of warfare, and the sort of knee-jerk judgements that art has no place in making. The truth is probably somewhere in the contradiction. At Sant’ Angelo, to my initial horror, the 5pm “bell” was a severely distorted recording that came from low quality speakers. But after a while I found it to be a rather musical discord.

To listen to the other recordings from this stop, visit htp://soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-licata

31.08.2015 I came to France to enter into the sound world of post-enlightenment French countryside as depicted in Alain Corbin’s Le cloches de la terre – which in my opinion is one of the most important publications on 19th century European micro-history, and a case of historicizing through the auditory. Corbin’s book serves as a philosophical point of departure for the journey I am undertaking. Another work of literature that underpinned this part of the journey is Iris Murdoch’s The Bell, which I picked up in London, and turned the last page in Cantal. The Bell is about people’s struggles to define goodness, in a world in which our spiritual and moral beings – in the absence of God – depended on religious structures that the society as a whole had long-outgrown. The novel’s narrative unfolded through the consciousnesses of several characters. English poet A. S. Byatt once said that one of Murdock’s abiding lessons was “the difficulty and necessity of imagining other people, with centres of consciousness as real as our own, and different.” Yes, obviously, and more urgently so than ever before – but how does one actually go about attempting this? In Rouen I tried to explain to Pete and Stephen – who came to document the journey – the reason behind my choice of color for a certain sound in my sound drawings. I soon realized that this is an impossible conversation: how do I make you hear C major as a light, transparent yellow? (Pete’s C major is blue). What we could agree on is the idea of hearing in colors, and that there is a consistency to the structure of this peculiar experience that is specific to the individual. Here, effective communication seems improbable, but I have always thought that communication is over-rated. What we need is an awareness of other consciousnesses, and a sympathy for their many peculiar predicaments. And there are perhaps few better ways to get into another’s head than through a sound with a long decay. With me, listen to this: a bell is struck, a wave of metallic articulations slowly pierce through space. A ringing resonance lingers long after the abrupt percussive event, like the persistent afterimage of the camera flashlight. The surplus, the residuals of this sensory overload that burns our sonic-retina, sustains in us a portal to each other’s minds. An infinitely extended reverberation binds us in a consensual hallucination, which dissolves only when you allow your imagination to become disengaged.

And back to the topic of 19th century France: Corbin described a world in which the sound of these large sonorous objects defined territories, punctuated secular and religious times, marked life events, and called citizens to arms. They were also among the few arsenals at rural folks’ disposal against the inevitable forces of nature, such as plagues and storms. Corbin made frequent references to the department of Cantal in south-central France, where people believed in the magical power of bells to cast off thunderstorms. So deeply rooted was this belief that ringing in thunderstorm continued for well over a century after laws that prohibited the practice had already been put in place. Corbin also described the economy of bells in these small communities. Evidently, individuals were charged significant sums of money for ringing at important life events, such as wedding and funeral. In some villages, the richer inhabitants sponsored the casting of “public bells” that tolled for all without reward. In occasion such as this the whole community rallied. The rich and the poor came together to contribute what they could. Family jewels and cheap household metallic objects alike were thrown into the furnace. A public bell was the crystallization of a community’s collective aspiration.

On August 24th we left Rouen for Cantal, where the party was joined by art historian and manager Thomas Girst. I had wished to visit three bells: a public bell at l’Église Saint-Hilaire de Brezons, a “magic bell” (la cloche magique) that was believed to possess special power against thunders at Vigouroux, and a public bell at l’Église de Saint-Martin sous Vigouroux that bore the inscription “I shall ring for the rich as well as the poor.” After some initial uncertainties, and with the help of our local guide Beatrice, we managed to locate and recorded all three bells. We also visited the village of Labrousse, where in 1831 a fight broke out between villagers who held contrasting views regarding the tolling of the village’s bell, with one side believing that the bell’s sound encouraged thunderstorm, and the other side believing the exact opposite to be true. I had only read about this in an article in passing. There was mention of bloodshed in the church, but I did not harbor any hope that the villagers would have knowledge of this. Upon our arrival in Labrousse we encountered, as if by divine intervention, local historians Lucie and Claude Gard who actually wrote about the “bataille” in their book Monographie der Labrousse. Other remarkable individuals we encountered include local archeologist Annie Rassinot and her husband, who generously shared her knowledge of bells in Cantal and showered us with French hospitality; the many mayors who brought us into the beautiful churches and bell towers; and the innkeeper at Vigouroux who sang for us an Occitan folk song, about a bell that had fallen into the lake – which, incidentally, is also the premise of Murdock’s book.

In times of extreme and stormy weather, in churches along the coast and deep in the mountains, bells tolled for the lost traveller like sonic beacons of bright light. Scientist Charles Babbage once speculated that sounds never disappear entirely after an articulation, but are instead archived in the air, as imprints on the atmosphere’s particles, as “testimonies of man’s changeful will.”

To listen to the other recordings from this stop, go to http://soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-rouen-cathedral-france & soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-cantal

27.08.2015 I traveled from Nuremberg to Bydgoszcz to track down a bell that was confiscated by the Nazis and survived the war.

Shortly after World War II broke out, the Nazis calculated the amount of resources that would be required to realize their objectives and figured that metal would soon be in short supply. To that end, a comprehensive plan was drawn up to acquire additional metal by confiscating church bells from all over Germany and the annexed territories. Bells were forcefully removed, transported and temporarily stored in a shipyard (later nicknamed “the bell cemetery”) near the city of Hamburg. There the bells would await their fate. In an attempt to preserve the more significant bells, well-meaning local authorities submitted every single one of them to a systematic process of examination and categorization. They produced an index card for each bell, a sort of preemptive “death certificate” that noted the bell’s origin, date of production, weight, pitch, and ornamental features such as inscriptions. Pencil presses and plaster molds of bell inscriptions were also made. Based on these characteristics, each bell was then given a rating of A, B, C or D, with D being the least significant and to be immediately melted down for metal. The index cards eventually ended up in the archives of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.

A great number of bells classified as C or above survived the war. The German bells were, in most cases, returned to their respective places of origin. Bells from the annexed territories were not so lucky: a court ruling dictated that the thefts of bells from Poland and other places were “merely acts of war.” By virtue of this ruling, all confiscated bells essentially became German national property. Few people cared at that point. Europe was in ruin and there were more pressing issues to worry about. Bells from annexed territories were sent somewhat indiscriminately to German churches that cared to ask for one. A 2004 article in Die Zeit (http://www.zeit.de/2004/44/OstGlocken) covered the story of a dispute between a Polish parish and a German church over the ownership of one such Nazi-confiscated bell. After much digging and a few phone calls, and with the help of a German friend Matthias and his Polish-speaking friend Joanna, we discovered that the bell had been returned to its rightful owner in 2005, to the tiny village of Slawianowie, which sits on the outskirts of Bydgoszcz in Poland.

On this trip, I first visited the bell archive at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. The index cards were beautifully made, and, to my surprise, the museum also kept a large number bell fragments. Apparently, the bell cemetery was bombed by the allies and some of the important bells were destroyed. Dr. Mathias Nuding, director of the archive, told me that I was the first person to look at these fragments since their transfer to the museum. I carefully photographed, measured and recorded the ring of each fragment. In Nuremberg, I also recorded the clock bell of the Frauenkirche from the market where Hitler was seen addressing his troops in Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. I also made several field recordings at the Zeppelinfeld Nazi rally grounds.

I then went to Poland to see the stolen bell in the Church of St. James the Apostle in Slawianowie. The head priest was kind enough to let me ring the bell. The next day, the guide took me to the Bydgoszcz district of Fordon, near the infamous “Valley of Death.” We visited an abandoned synagogue there, where I made some recordings and interviewed a local resident who is fundraising to revive the synagogue. He told me a remarkable story: At one time, a sizable Jewish population resided in the district. The Swedish King John II Casimir Vara ruling Poland at that time established Fordon as a “model community,” where Jews, Catholics and Protestants would live harmoniously alongside each other. This aspiration is still evident in the city’s plan. The majority of the Jews, however, fled before the war; only 28 remained, and they worked together to maintain the synagogue until all had been sent to the concentration camps. Out of these 28 Jews, only one survived the war. This lone survivor came back to the district in the 1950s, in hopes of rejoining her community, only to discover that none of her friends and neighbors had survived – an entire community wiped out. Many believed that she then left the country and never returned. Others, however, believed she adopted a new non-Jewish identity and continues to live in the district to this day.

To listen to the other recordings, visit http://soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls

17.08.2015 The Great Paul that adorns the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is the product of the John Taylor & Co Bell Foundry. John Taylor invented a new way of bell-tuning that paid special attention to the harmonic complexity of the overtones produced by bells. Before this innovation, bell-tuning was achieved by simply chipping away parts of the surfaces of the bell, which were crude and inaccurate. The foundry’s history was also intertwined with the history of warfare. Two of the family’s descendants perished on the battlefields of the Great War, and a great number of memorial carillons across the UK and the US was cast by John Taylor & Co. One such example is the War Memorial Carillons at Queens Park in Loughborough, which are sounded between 1pm - 2pm on Thursdays and Sundays in the summer months.
The foundry keeps an excellent archive that recorded the inscriptions on all of bells produced by the foundry since 1930. In many cases inscriptions on bells give detail of the donors that patronized the casting of the bell, but in the second half of the 1940s right through to the 1950s a great number of bells bore inscriptions that paid tribute to those who’d fallen in the war.
My final destination in the UK before departing for Germany is the Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. The cathedral is home to the ship’s bell that served the HMS Canterbury, a C-class light cruiser of the Royal Navy, which participated in one of the toughest naval battles of the First World War. Every weekday at 11am, the ship’s bell is rung, and a page on the book of remembrance is turned.
I started reading Anne Frank’s diary again. Something that I’d completely missed in my previous reading: the Westertoren tower bell that the Annex residents would have heard every hour on the hour, until it was broken sometime in 1942. In isolation, the bell punctuated Anne’s time in confinement and made the experience a little more bearable.

To listen to other recordings, visit http://soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-london2

14.08.2015 In London, I was introduced to the world of English-style change-ringing by two remarkable individuals. Alan Regin is an experienced ringer and the steward of the Rolls of Honour at St Paul’s Cathedral, which recorded the names of all known ringers who’d fallen in the two great wars. Alan showed me the two beautiful volumes that sits in a vitrine outside of the ringing chamber, handcrafted by Timothy Noah and carefully maintained by Alan, with new names added frequently. Alan took me to other restricted access areas, such as the room where the remains of the burnt-down portion of the cathedral are now stored. In the ringing chamber we looked at the peal board that recorded the peal that was rung on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation. I sketched and recorded the sound of the Great Paul - the heaviest bell in the UK
Alan is also the steeple keeper of the Christ Church in Spitalfields. He got together a band of excellent ringers from all over UK for me to record, just hours after my arrival into the city. One of the right who rang that morning served in Northern Ireland during the turbulent years. He described to me how he would hear the bells ring on Sundays from his outpost, and wished that he was in the tower ringing instead of being on the ground.
John Harrison was my initial entry point into the world of ringers. He is the steeple keeper of the All Saints Church in Wokingham, which had a ring of six bell installed in as early as 1704. I observed and recorded the Wokingham band’s weekly practice session, and witnessed how bell-ringing is taught to less experienced ringers.

To listen to other recordings from London, part 1, visit http://soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/

10.08.2015 I spent the first 3 days of the journey in the city of Mandalay in Myanmar to record the Mingun Bell, which is significant not only because of its size, but also because its construction involved thousands of brought slaves, who were also involved in the building of the never-finished Mingun Pagoda. The unpopular project contributed towards the dynasty’s demise. I am also interested in the close relationship between Buddhism and civic movements in this country, the most recent example of course being the monks’ involvement and leadership in the Saffron Revolution of 2007. I recorded a bunch of temple bells at various locations, and interviewed Buddhists who were involved in the protests. I also recorded the temple bell that sits on Mandalay Hill - the stage for one of the toughest battles of the Burma Campaign during WWII. Aside from recording bells, I also visited a third-generation bell craftsman’s workshop, and interviewed one of the members of the comedy trio Mustache Brothers, members of whom was jailed for 7 years for criticizing the military government in a performance at the home of Aung San Suu Kyi in 1996. Par Par Lay was again arrested in 2007 during the Saffron Revolution.

To listen to other sound recordings from Mandalay, Myanmar visit http://soundcloud.com/samsonyoung/sets/myanmar-mandalay