30 June 2006

bells in the wilds

I keep whining that my dream of working in a US National Park for a summer can't come true because none of the parks have carillons, except Death Valley at Scotty's Castle, which also boasts a theater organ. The carillon doesn't seem accessible, though.

So here is an interesting case: Luray Caverns in Virginia. A "stalacpipe" organ and a "Singing Tower" carillon. Hmmm.

29 June 2006

build your own carillon

So this is how to get started on building your own private carillon: Move into a deconsecrated church. Doh. "The tri-level condos average 1,850 square feet. One four-level unit contains the original church bell tower, reached by a spiral staircase." Thanks to Mark for that New Haven tidbit.


Stayed up far too late on my flight to Zurich and was rewarded with the breathtaking silence of a vista of stars and the Milky Way arching beyond my little airplane window. I could only imagine what a wonder the pilots must have seen from the cockpit, skimming over a dark Atlantic free of artifical light.

The Frick Collection was tiny but each piece was a gem set in the magnificence of a sumptuous mansion on Central Park. My eye is becoming more developed. Even as I hurried through each room, my gaze lingered on paintings that I then realized were by the likes of Vermeer and Turner although many other artists are exhibited. Subway delays ensured, as usual, that I barely made my flight on time. My text message from the gate at JFK reached Todd while he was on his plane back to Denver. When the flight attendent questioned me in German, I instinctively answered, "Nee... nein." But as I read German magazines and listened to the announcements, I began to get a hold of the language again. So it's still there.

Zurich has the sleekest, most modern and yet comfortable airport I've ever seen. I'm dying, just dying, to actually visit the city and see some of Switzerland. August, anyone?

26 June 2006


What are the chances that three European-trained American twenty-something carillonneurs would end up in the same car on the subway sitting across from each other?

New York: A small big city.

And what are the chances that two of these carillonneurs would then come across the esoteric score of John Cage's "Music for Carillon No. 4" on display in MoMA?

Every floor of MoMA was exquisite. Barely made it out alive. Didn't eat a real dinner. Attended a party attended only by musicians in Brooklyn. Got off the subway early to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Arrived back at Two Gold at midnight. Nobody was home from work except Euge. The others returned about half past midnight.

I suppose going to work one day and returning home from work the next isn't so alien to my own way of life. But doing that work in an office... that's what boggles my mind.

24 June 2006

homesick for where?

Seeing Marc Van Eyck's carillon video while on the bus to The Riverside Church panning across European churches (especially Belgian ones) and just now discovering Diest carillonneur Teun Michiels' hot website and photos make me miss Belgium. So now I have California (north and south), New England, and Belgium to miss.

As Rob, organist of the 1890 William Hill organ in Sydney Town Hall, quipped: We're never happy without something to complain about.

Quote from the Cornell Chimesmasters' glossy full color brochure: "Like steadfast seamstresses, the Cornell Chimesmasters have woven the emotional fabric of our fair Cornell through their daily chimes concerts." Instead of playing music "from Bach to Britney" as they say at Yale, the Cornell Chimesmasters "play music ranging from the Beatles to Beethoven."

22 June 2006

the finish line

Another responsibility discharged. Information disseminated, people ruffled, people flattered, people flattering themselves. I was unprepared and out of public speaking practice, but I guess it came off okay.

"He's gonna break his arm one day patting himself on the back," said SSW of one of the more talkative members of the GCNA. She's delightfully saucy as ever. And now I have invitations for summer concerts that are over a year away.

Why do I keep being nice? Even someone who barely knew him had the gall to walk up to him and tell him he's an @55. I should just do that and walk away. And return to Belgium a couple days earlier. The grass is getting greener.

19 June 2006


Now it's my turn to be embarrassed. It is the CG rather than her assistant to which all credit and courtesty invitations should go, no matter who does which kind of work. The real world is a strange place. I'm slowly learning to navigate it... an essential process for future carillon campaigns.

Geert's first question to me was, "Don't get me wrong, but where is the liquor store?"

Fried ice cream double dessert. Heaven on a Thai Taste plate.


Why in tarnation did I think I needed to be at 7 am breakfast?

18 June 2006


Perhaps he became afraid to see me when the chance finally came. I passed a much better day reconnecting with Adrien. The synergy we had going was remarkable, especially considering that we'd barely managed to keep in touch over the past two years.

Until today, I never had an audience in Harkness that actually stayed watching me play in total silence until I encouraged them to go upstairs and enjoy the view.

The Guild didn't just forget to mention American Airlines in the papers. They forgot to mention in the schedule that YUCMI sponsored the opening reception. That's just mentioned on the back page that nobody reads.

Bob and I talked about this. You don't get something for nothing. But Yalies tend to forget this.

a woman in transit

By some miracle, Adrien returned to New Haven for the first time since she graduated in 2004 just at the time I also happened to be back. We met over salad, soup, and bread at Atticus and then went on an intense tea experience at Oolong's.

"I've become a public restroom addict," she explained after using the facilities. I could not imagine what she meant.

But since leaving her job for interviews around the country, and subsequently having traveled to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, as well doing the most hardcore outdoor activities possible in Costa Rica, she'd learned to operate on the assumption that you might not find another restroom for a long time.

We both agreed that there's something about a woman in transit.

15 June 2006


So things have gone to sh*t around here. A poor welcome back and demonstration of a complete lack of business sense. So I get to do the cleanup in addition to everything else I'm working on. Thanks, Guild.

14 June 2006

back in the have

This is a reminder to myself to write about my first jetlagged day back in the Have, Sunday June 11.

New Haven postcardIn New Haven where the summer visual arts scene makes me drool.

In New Haven where I'm suddenly Belgian in comparison to everyone else. There were over ten people in Koffee?, each sitting alone, but I was the only one of them without a laptop in front of me -- save the hunched graduate student poring intensely over two books of about 500 pages each. How... archaic. And I wasn't pissed off that some of the businesses were closed on Sunday or were only open until 6 to 8 pm Sundays. It just seemed... like something that happens.

In New Haven where even sketchy bars now have free wireless.

In New Haven, the place I didn't know I missed until I walked its streets on a quiet summer Sunday afternoon.


Today was the most intense day of employed work in my life. And I'm not sure it's wise to be running in a collection of valuable historical musical instruments. But today I did it a lot. And finished the booklet. It's been renamed "Tintinnabulation!"

Today I also discovered that someone I'd helped into a position of authority in the Yale Guild against significant opposition would rather lock me out than return the favor.

It's been an hour since I got off from work and my heart is still racing from the adrenaline.

Time for dinner with old housemates.

And then some practice, because I have friends in higher places on my side.

13 June 2006

love affairs

How many love affairs can one person carry on and still keep herself together? My museum work... it is absolutely addictive, and hearing my colleague Gwen, a philosophy doctoral candidate, talk about how after her degree, she still wouldn't mind going into arts administration in a museum doesn't exactly discourage my fervor. Neither does the curator's approval of my Beiaardmuseum work and wish that I had the time to do the same for YUCMI. It's taken me three days to master InDesign (and to fall in love with it) and turn out the handsomest publication I have ever made. It will go for a run of 400 to 500 copies, and it's got a Yale blue cover--yes, InDesign has Yale blue built right into the color presets. But that's just the first affair.
Ketchum Collection of BellsTonight I played the carillon for the first time since my final exam five days and an ocean ago. And even slugging through difficult pieces at an American standard keyboard, so different from what I learned them on, in the summer heat became so intensely absorbing that I realized I would have gone on no matter what the conditions were. The discovery that I need to play on an almost daily basis is frightening. The odds are against anyone who wants to play the carillon on a regular basis for the rest of her life. And yet with all the other things I'm able to do, that's the one thing I know I want as part of my future.

The Yale Memorial Carillon suddenly felt so light, it could have almost been a practice instrument--I wanted more resistance out of it! Perhaps the difference is due to the recent work by Meeks & Watson. But frankly, I think the carillon has stayed the same, and my arms have gotten more massive. Now that I reinspect them, I realize how much more muscular they are than they ever have been. I barely need to practice on the real carillon for my upcoming concert--the opposite of my situation in Mechelen. But I could have sworn that in the past, St. Rombouts had felt slightly lighter than Yale. Now Yale is perhaps a bit too spongy.

Afterwards I knelt in awe in Memorial Chapel at the base of the tower, gazing up through the darkness at that little fan vault ceiling--almost laughable in comparison to the originals at Oxford--and my body didn't know how to react to the wonder I was feeling. The default reaction was tears, but those were hardly appropriate. The low perpetual hum, the golden glow of the single lamp, the wooden reliefs lining the walls over monumental wooden seats, the stained glass commemorating disciplines and intellects, all seemed to converge on the point of a myth about to commence, something wondrous or terrible coming and as we prepared to defend all that is good. At the same time, my dreams of a big mock-religious church wedding faded as I saw that I could have the ceremony right there in that beautiful little non-consecrated chapel with one of the most gorgeous carillons in the world ringing out in joy. Not that my plans get any more specific than place and instrumental accompaniment, but I can't believe that in all the time I spent quietly in that chapel, the idea never appealed to me.

So, that was grabbed-by-the-throat love affair number two. I guess Yale, New Haven, and biking could be bundled up into number three. Because tonight I biked leisurely on what I keep telling myself is a badass single speed bike (really just a beat up thing with broken shifters that Bob threw together for me after I proffered Belgian chocolate) through campus in the perfect gloaming and perfect tank top weather. And I was overcome by its beauty, the undulating Gothic spires and monumental Classical arcades, the towers so dense you can't see one for the other before it, the elm-lined streets, the lush courtyards and greens... and just when I thought I couldn't bear it, contrast. For the first time, I saw the heavy wooden doors of the Wall Street gate to Silliman wide open, floodlights transforming the dusty air inside into a solid, inviting mass of light. Splelunking time. I hid the bike and wandered around, crunching on tire-sculpted gravel, remembering my ACCESS/YSECS days of yore. Hopping down the stairs for a good romp through the basement, I stopped short at the big asbestos warning sign, caught my breath, and romped straight out into the new gelato store across the street. I savored my melting lemon and giandiua scoops on the steps outside, gazing straight into the cavernous mouth of SM wishing for a spelunking partner.

And then home I biked, flipping my temp baby over outside the front door to manually shift the chain into a lower gear, since that's the only way to do it.

So the grass is still greener on the other side, no matter where you are now. But for me, the grass is only greener once I'm on it--pretty much the best way to live. I only grudgingly left Europe for the States because I was just fine there, and now I'm dizzy with exuberance to be back.

catalog talk

How do you make something as undignified as a cow bell sound fancy enough for a museum catalog?

Well, first of all, you dig up das ursprüngliche deutsche Wort von der Schweiz. Then you find words not used in the vernacular to describe whatever "artistic" elements you can find. And voilà: "Cow bell (Treichel) on leather strap with applied metalwork, 1813".


7:19 pm: I had eleven minutes to practice the Yale Memorial Carillon. So I pulled on my right MTB glove and sat down without sheet music. The tritones of "Motorhythmia" began to pummel the campus as my fists pummeled the keyboard, probably audible from distant places where nobody had heard the carillon before (particularly since nobody can pull a fortissimo here).

By the penultimate page, the g1 (above middle c) felt funny. I tapped it a bit harder.


Something metallic flew out of the back of the keyboard and clattered on the cement floor. Ignoring the disaster, I kept playing and then trudged through an unfortunate rendition of "Image No. 2," which is filled with g1's.

7:30 pm: I had to stop for the Festival of Arts & Ideas. Getting down on my hands and knees, I sought the source of the bent metal rod in my hand through the cobwebs beneath the keyboard. The rod proved to be an (archaic) pedal return spring. Perhaps it had come loose?

No. It had snapped cleanly in two.

Should I feel badass for breaking a real carillon during a performance for the first time? Or should I just feel bad for the damage? (No, because the repair dudes were fortuitously scheduled to come on Wednesday, and anyway the pedal would have broken during someone's concert at the Congress instead). Should I worry that my playing has become too virtuosically European?

Nah, I kinda like the idea.

12 June 2006


Somehow it was a piece of cake to stay up in New Haven until 6:15 AM engaged in intensive writing and design... even though I can't stay up in Mechelen past 4 AM to save my life. Clearly there's something in the air at Yale. Aerosolized caffeine? Or just pure academic energy?

I took a stroll through New Haven to cure myself of a miserable case of jetlag and found my heart brimming with emotions I could hardly identify. I'd always missed New Haven, but yesterday afternoon I remembered some of the precise reasons why. Along the way, I picked up so many summer arts brochures, I could have occupied myself for a week, although I will probably drag an understanding soul along later. I did give in and visit the Ely Slade Gallery while carrying a bagful of Asian loot from the familiar old Hong Kong Grocery on the way home to a third-floor apartment on thoroughly New England-y Trumbull Street.

The diversity of America is such a relief. Not until my stroll did I realize I had not spoken to a single black person in Belgium since my first week of living in Mechelen, when a black lady living there and working in Brussels offered me directions as I was leaving the train for Mechelen, convinced that I was not headed there but to Antwerp (since who would believe in Asians living in Mechelen?). Now I've got two African American roommates (well, one-and-a-half) ragging on the white population of suburbian Connecticut. Thank goodness. Although now that I consider it, my workplace is still entirely white... surprise, surprise, the upper echelons of Yale society.

The openness and friendliness of people is a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed a lively chat with a woman going through Columbia business school on a free ride and a woman who went through Case Western on a free ride on the Metro-North from NYC, and we didn't need a reason to communicate. We just started talking, and discovered we had a few remarkable things in common.

The strangest thing that made me feel as if I had come home was that I had been puzzling for the past few days over a television show I had seen on the Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) when I was maybe six years old and which had inexplicably returned to my conscious memory. The main characters of the show, two children, run into an eccentric artist in an innercity ghetto building a dizzying set of spiraling towers out of the garbage that local residents threw away. I had wondered ever since if the program had described a real person and structure or was, more likely, simply a fantastic story, for that is what it seemed likely to be. Well, the Case Western grad was reading a copy of the New York Times with a photo that I instantly recognized, although I had last seen it perhaps two decades ago. And I finally learned the facts: That program documented the famous Watts Towers in Los Angeles, built by the indeed eccentric and remarkable Simon Rodia.

Welcome back, Tiffany--to your past and your future. And go to bed. It may not bother you in the Yale air, but your fingers are trembling at the keyboard.

09 June 2006


At Elvo's request, a last-minute stub:

Yesterday, on the first true summer's day in Belgium, I graduated with great distinction from the Royal Carillon School (two points short of my own teacher in 1982) and earned the first perfect score in the history of the school with my thesis, a 366-page catalog of the Carillon Museum in Mechelen.

It was a very good day. For a few precious hours, I felt as if I could be a normal member of society again. And now I have accomplished precisely what I came to do: Learn to make music with the carillon, earn the diploma with great distinction, and find a way to go down in history.

Dinner tonight at De Kok & De Proever next door was great. That dessert...

05 June 2006


For the first time, playing Motorhythmia felt easy on the carillon. My muscles didn't tire or stiffen up, and at no time did I feel as if I was wrestling with the piece. I just tapped it off the batons and pedals.

Never in my thirteen years of studying music have I experienced a year in which the learning stages were so prominent. So this is what it's like to make music your life.

Pedagogical quote from Geert about playing in St.-Romboutstoren: "This carillon is a monster. You have to play it like a monster."