Campus Soundscape: The Vassar Chime
Striking every hour, on the hour, with two concerts at 12:30 and 5:00 pm, the Vassar Chime has been an essential part of college life since 1904. Although the music that streams from the Chapel tower may seem like an unchanging element of the soundscape, it has been produced by several different types of instruments over the past century, from the original tubular bell chime of 1904 to the computer-controlled electronic carillon we hear today. For this project, we climbed into the boarded-up Chapel belfry and sent up a drone to photograph its exterior, as well as conducting archival research to trace the history of the Vassar bells to 2020. This history has led to new developments. In fall 2020, a newly formed carillon guild began playing live daily concerts at 4:30pm, with new and varied repertoire — for which they take requests. And a generous donor came forth in December 2020 to fund the acquisition of a sophisticated new electronic carillon, which will significantly expand the possibilities for new sounds. Still to come, we hope, will be the restoration of the historic instrument — the elegant, sonorous tubular bells, still in the Chapel belfry.