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Spring-Summer 2000
Vol. 62, No. 3

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NEW CHIME TOLLS FROM LIBRARY TOWER FOR SPECIAL YEAR

Harrison
Harrison banging the batons at the carillon "keyboard."

A constant musical refrain from the River Campus since 1930 is changing its tune. The University Sesquicentennial has inspired a new chime to mark the passage of time from the tower of Rush Rhees Library.

Gone are the "Westminster Quarters," the marker for the quarter-hours that began with Big Ben. In its place are the "Rochester Quarters," composed by Daniel Harrison, associate professor of music at the College and associate professor of theory at the Eastman School of Music.

Harrison, who regularly plays the Hopeman Memorial Carillon built inside the tower, decided on his own to write a chime for the 150th anniversary year. "I was intrigued by the challenge of composing a clock chime, since there are only four notes available," he says. "How could I come up with something memorable within those limitations?"

He concentrated on building the sounds progressively, ending with a cumulative melody on the hour. At quarter past the hour, four chimes are struck; at half-past, eight; at three-quarters, 12; and on the hour, 16 chimes plus the hourly strike of the bells. (You can hear the chime at www.rochester.edu/sesqui/chimes.html.)

The "Rochester Quarters" was played for the first time on January 31, the date in 1850 when the Regents of the University of the State of New York issued the preliminary charter for the University of Rochester.

Using tower bells to keep time is of medieval European origin, Harrison says. Large towns as well as neighborhoods within cities often had their own distinctive chime tune.

"I hope the University community comes to think of the chime as a distinctive and enriching feature of campus life," he says.

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