Clemson University for carillonneur Linda Dzuris
Bronze bells have a long and rich history, beginning with their invention during the Bronze Age (around 3000 BCE). By the Middle Ages, bells were regularly commissioned and employed by churches. Bells served many purposes; for instance, they were used as calls to prayer, in religious services and celebrations, in commemoration for the dead, to warn of danger, and to mark the hours of the day.
In my research into carillon bells, I was intrigued to discover that in the Middle Ages, bells were imbued with human qualities: they underwent baptisms after being cast; they were given names; and when they rang, the bells were “speaking." Often, bells bore inscriptions on its surface that defined their function. One such inscription is the Latin phrase Vivos voco, mortuos plango, fulgura frango which translates to I call the living, I mourn the dead, I repel lightning. This phrase was memorialized by German poet Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), who found the inscription on a large bell that had been cast in 1486 and placed in a cathedral in Schaffhausen, Switzerland; he used the phrase as the motto for his poem "Das Lied von der Glocke" ("The Song of the Bell").
In Vivos Voco, I pay tribute to these bells, which are the carillon’s direct predecessors. My piece consists of three sections: first, we hear celebratory music, followed by a contemplative call to prayer, and a third section in which the bells solemnly toll for the deceased. The funeral music is followed by a return to the call to prayer, and the piece ends with the celebratory music once more. In essence, I constructed the piece to represent the symmetrical shape of a bell (A-B-C-B-A), with the outermost sections containing the most exciting music, where the clappers strike the bell’s edge and sets the bell ringing.