Carillon Redux: The Back Story

Carillon bells
Detail from original 2012 rendering of the carillon.

You aren’t often given a chance to revisit a project completed and published years earlier. Once a project is finished, you usually just stash the files and move on to the next thing.

So when it was suggested that a new informational graphic might be needed to illustrate the renovation of the University of Rochester’s Hopeman Memorial Carillon, it seemed a nice opportunity to revise and improve on some earlier work.

In other words, a renovation.

The original carillon infographic, published in July 2012, was my first project in Autodesk Maya. Learning the application’s complex interface, node-based architecture and finicky modeling tools – while executing a large 3D scene on deadline – isn’t something I’d want to repeat. Let’s just call it a learning experience.

Now I’m looking forward to the opportunity to recreate – from scratch – a similar graphic with the benefit of hindsight, a little more experience and a lot more time. Should be fun.

Local landmark
Rush Rhees Library
Facade and tower of Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester.

The dome of Rush Rhees Library stands 186 feet above the main campus of the University of Rochester. It’s a local landmark, visible for miles, and has become one of the most recognizable visual symbols of the university.

The library was built in 1930 as the centerpiece of the new Rochester campus, which was funded by contributions provided by Rochester industrialist George Eastman and other local philanthropists.

The existing carillon was installed in 1973 inside the lantern, the ornate tower located on top of the main dome. According to the university’s website, the carillon comprises 50 bells imported from Holland. The total weight is 6,668 pounds.

The bells are mounted in fixed positions in several rows and are sounded by clappers triggered by transmission wires that run through the floor to the keyboard below. The keyboard, or clavier, is housed in an enclosed platform suspended beneath the roof of the main dome.

The carillon is purely muscle powered. The performers – usually university students – gently strike the clavier’s peg-shaped “keys” with their fists and tap the pedals with their feet. The heaviest clappers are counterweighted. Even so, performing a long composition must provide quite a workout.