Such Sweet Thunder
by Samson Young


The auditory range 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, their purity of tone and fullness of volume become sources of collective pride. In contrast, the theft of certain bells—often as part of a violent conflict—has aroused fierce animosities. In 2015 composer and artist Samson Young undertook a journey around the world to visit and record historically significant bells that have given concrete form to notions of political, racial, ideological, religious, and interpersonal conflicts. Among them were a slave trader warning bell in Mombasa, Kenya; a bell confiscated by the Nazis that survived the war but only made it back to the city of Bydgoszcz, Poland, by way of a long detour; the Great Peacock Clock at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, General Potemkin’s gift of love to Catherine the Great; and a “silenced” church bell/chandelier from Spain, which now hangs mutely from the ceiling of the Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque in Fez, Morocco. Such Sweet Thunder is a sixty-minute composition that weaves these bells into a rich tapestry of clashing overtones and discords.

Posted in Public Radio