concert at night

Metal on Metal

What do you call Motörhead played on tower bells? Metal on metal, baby. Heavy metal. Sorry, not sorry. That joke is too easy.

Perhaps you’ve heard that in Oslo, Norway the clock tower in the City Hall has been ringing out tunes by David Bowie, Motörhead, Kraftwerk, Nine Inch Nails, and John Lennon. The decision to feature songs by Bowie and Motörhead are due to the recent passing of both Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister. The carillonist, Laura Marie Rueslaatten Olseng, noticed how her fellow townspeople were torn up about Lemmy’s passing, so she decided to honor his music in the best way–by having it played over the town every day. And what a perceptive musician! The story and videos of the bell performances have gone viral. (These bell tunes are actually played automatically, not by a musician at a carillon keyboard.)

What I find remarkable is that the musical selection on the bells is remarkable at all. It’s clear that the general public does not expect popular hits from today (and the not-too-distant past) to be ringing over their heads. This, in fact, is the opposite of how carillons functioned back in the 16th and 17th centuries when they were really gaining steam. The carillon performers, and the automatic drums, played tunes that were very familiar to the townspeople–folk songs, dances, sacred selections, opera arias, and so on. It was the radio of the day.

Carillon performers, let’s get back to our roots! And I don’t mean playing the hits from 1685. I mean playing popular music from today. I’d love to see more viral videos of unexpected music heard from bell towers. Maybe one day it will become so common that it’s no longer remarkable.

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