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For Whom the Bells Tolls - Mandalay, Myanmar

2015/8/14 — 10:10

The Mingun bell from the outside. The Mingun Bell is one of the largest bells that is still in ringing condition.

The Mingun bell from the outside. The Mingun Bell is one of the largest bells that is still in ringing condition.

"For Whom the Bell Tolls" Article Series Here

This album contains a selection of photos from the first stop of my "For Whom the Bell Tolls" project. To listen to the recordings visit:

廣告

[About the project]

Before the invention of modern machinery, only bells and heavy artilleries were capable of producing noises that could compete with the thunderous roars of nature. In many ways, the fates of bells and cannons are inexorably intertwined: since they are made out of essentially the same materials, in times of war bells would be confiscated and melted down to create cannons and rifles. When the war was over, bells were then recast out of surplus cannons and weapons. The auditory coverage of bells defines territories, separating one community from another along cultural, religious, or ideological fault lines. Bells also connect individuals. When great care is taken in the tuning of bells, the purity of tone and fullness of volume become sources of collective pride. The abduction of bells on the other hand – often involving violent conflicts – aroused fierce animosities, and individual’s sense of belonging is greatly disturbed by such events (Alain Corbin, 1998).

廣告

"For whom the bell tolls" takes the titles of Hemingway’s novel & Donne’s poem quite literally and asks: who needs bells? For whom are bells cast, sounded, and preserved in perpetuity?

Much like the traveling landscape artist, I propose to sketch, notate, and record the sounds of these large sonorous objects in a variety of auditory conditions. The 60-day journey that spans five continents will generate an archive of bell recordings, a series of bell sound sketches / drawings, a set of bronze bells, and a composition for bell-ringers and orchestra.

[About this stop - Mandalay]

I chose Mandalay as my first stop for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I wanted to record the Mingun Bell, which is significant not only because of its size (being the 3rd largest in the world and one of the only two still in ringing condition), but also because its construction involved thousands of brought slaves, who were also involved in the building of the never-finished Mingun Pagoda. I am also interested in the close relationship between Buddhism and civic movements in this country since antiquity, the most recent example being the monks' involvement and leadership in the Saffron Revolution of 2007. I recorded a bunch of temple bells and interviewed Buddhists who were involved in the protests. 

A bell casting workshop

A bell casting workshop

This craftsman - who learned the trade from his father - has been casting bells for over 20 years for temples allover Myanmar. He is a third-generation craftsman.

This craftsman - who learned the trade from his father - has been casting bells for over 20 years for temples allover Myanmar. He is a third-generation craftsman.

Works-in-progress.

Works-in-progress.

Aside from recording bells, I also visited a bell craftsman's workshop, and interviewed one of the members of the comedy trio Mustache Brothers, the members of whom was jailed for 7 years for criticizing the government in a performance at the home of Aung San Suu Kyi in 1996. Par Par Lay - one of the members - was again arrested in 2007 during the Saffron Revolution.

 

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Artist website - http://www.thismusicisfalse.com
Project website - http://www.bmw-art-journey.com
BMW Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/bmw

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