Striking Re-Semblance (2017-20)

Running from October 2017 to Mid 2020, this piece was commissioned by the Smithsonian for their Freer-Sacker Gallery. It is part of the major exhibit Resound: Ancient Bells of China


“Bells were among the first metal objects created in China. Beginning over 3,500 years ago, small, primitive noisemakers grew into gongs and further evolved into sets of hand bells for playing melodies. Further, centuries of technological experimentation resulted in more sophisticated bells that produced two pitches when struck in different spots.

Variations in size, shape, decoration, and sound also reveal regional differences across north and south China. By the late Bronze Age large sets of tuned bells were played in ensemble performances in both areas. Cast from bronze, these durable bells preserve valuable information about the character of early Chinese music.

Today we can use technology to explore these ancient instruments and to explain their acoustical properties, but we know little about the sound of this early music. To bring the bells to life, we commissioned three composers to create soundscapes using the recorded tones of a 2,500-year-old bell set on display.”

About My contribution, Striking Re-Semblance:

In this piece, all sounds are purely derived from the bell set. I chose to focus on extending harmonic layers drawn from the bells, with rhythms that arise both from looping the bells as well as extending the inner textural quality of the bell sound itself. I invited visual artist Elysha Poirier to augment this approach by focusing on an impressionistic styling that is both driven by the sound and hints at the physical properties of the bells.


Doug Van Nort

Elysha Poirier

Keith Wilson