The fanfare of the Star Wars theme and Lil Nas X’s ‘Montero’ could be heard Tuesday afternoon from the top of Burton Tower on Central Campus. The music was a part of a special performance entitled “For Whom the Bells Poll,” which was held to bring the community together on Election Day.
The election day medlies performed at both Burton and Lurie Towers were done by Music, Theatre & Dance graduate student Carson Landry, who studies carillon performance. A carillon is a percussion instrument consisting of a keyboard attached to cast bronze bells. According to Landry, the University of Michigan has two carillons which have a range of four and a half octaves. The Charles Baird Carillon in Burton Tower, donated by Charles Baird, the University’s first athletic director, is the third-heaviest carillon in the world today.
In honor of elections, the U-M carillon studio invited community members to vote on songs for the live performances on Tuesday. This was also in partnership with the campuswide Turn Up Turn Out voting initiative, which aims to increase student voting engagement.
Carillonist and associate professor of carillon Tiffany Ng said that this performance was part of a larger project to find ways to incorporate the carillon in the community. She said the project was launched to help address the physical isolation that can occur when carillonists perform in the bell tower.
“What we’re doing is not saying, ‘Hey, come vote through a bell tower concert,’ but actually, ‘Who is already getting out the vote and how can the bell tower be involved in that?’” Ng said.
Since the carillon is usually played during very public events, Landry explained the carillon has a unique role that can bring awareness to certain issues and reach many people in the community.
“The carillon is a very publicly present instrument,” Landry said. “It is very important that we are connected to the community, and what we play on the carillon is representative of our entire community and what people want to hear.”
LSA senior Allen Gibson said that performances like these are a fun way to increase voter engagement in the community.
“I definitely feel like any effort to increase voter participation or (to) get people encouraged to go out is important,” Gibson said.
Business senior Jeremy Vandenhout, who attended the performance in the Tower, said this performance was very special because the audience could enjoy the music while having a scenic view of the campus from above.
“This is a great opportunity to get that front row seat and really understand where the music is coming from that we hear everyday,” Vandenhout said.
The songs chosen for the event included popular music from movie franchises and artists, such as John Lennon. After the 30-minute performance, many spectators said they enjoyed the final song, which was Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
Though this event was meant to encourage voter participation, Vandenhout said that it was not just about the elections, but also about bringing people together.
“I think even on Election Day, people are going to probably vote regardless of whether there’s music going on,” Vandenhout said. “But this (event) again is a great way to build community.”