Pfarrkirche St. Peter und Paul
Willisau, Switzerland

Die Glocken schwingen schwer von Erz

(The bells swing heavy with ore)



Im Turm, im Gestühl, hängen die Glocken schwer von Erz. Sie schwingen um die Welle, und ihr ganzer, klar geformter Körper schwingt, und sendet Klang auf Klang hinaus in die Weite ...

Ja, wenn wir Glocken hören, dann fühlen wir die Weite! Wenn sie vom Turm in die Ebene schwingen, nach allen Seiten ins endlose hinaus, dann zieht die Sehnsucht mit in die Ferne ...

Da sürt man die Weite. Wie ein Ausbreiten der Seele ist´s, ein Hinüberspannen, ein Antworten auf den fernen Ruf der Unendlichkeit...

-Romano Guardini, Von heiligen Zeichen

Programme Note:


Die Glocken schwingen schwer von Ertz (The bells swing heavy with ore) was written for violinist Nadia Francavilla during my artist residency in Willisau, Switzerland, 2006.


Like many Swiss towns, the church bells ring in Willisau every fifteen minutes, with longer chimes three times a day. These bells make up the simple tape component of the piece. I hoped to give the residents of Willisau a re-sensitized awareness of this environmental sound that is so commonplace to them, but which, as a newcomer, I found affecting. The tape part also plays with space perception and the resulting changes in sound quality by crossfading the same bell chime recorded at various proximities: outdoors on a nearby valley slope and in the tower, directly beneath the bells.


Development of the work first began with the violin when I was drawn to compositions for unaccompanied violin by J.S. Bach, and was especially inspired by an arpeggiated chord gesture in Sonata III. Like the periodic bell chimes, I enjoyed repeating this gesture over and over and playing with subtle rhythmic changes and permutations of the dyads.


Each bell strike produces multiple pitches, or partials. The volume of each partial varies independently over time. The result is that, even though a bell is struck in a regular period, a different pitch is emphasized each time or a pattern of pitches comes out in close succession – much like the arpeggiation gesture inspired by Bach. And, the violin even swings and bounces despite the fact the violin wouldn’t normally be considered a bell-like instrument.




It was quite wonderful how Emily Hall integrated the sounds of the environment of Willisau in her new work Die Glocken schwingen schwer von Erz. The piece, inspired by some of Bach’s work for solo violin, meshed the recurrent chord-like element (like the swings of the bells) with the recorded sounds of the bells from the city’s church tower nearby. The tape part plays with the elements of one’s own space perception since some of the material was recorded from far away and some right under the bells themselves.


-Nadia Francavilla, violinist

About the bells:


The church bell chimes that make up the tape part were recorded at the Pfarrkirche St. Peter und Paul in Willisau, Switzerland. Some of the recordings were made directly in the bell tower, while others were recorded on the nearby valley slope.


Five of the bells were cast by Rüetschi Aarau in 1929. The largest bell weighs 3264 kg and was cast in 1615 by Abraham Zehnder in Bern. Zehnder is known for having cast the largest bell made in Switzerland.  Made in 1611, this bell hangs in the Cathedral in Bern.


Click here to watch a YouTube video of these very same bells in action!

Canadian Composer Emily Hall / Compositeur canadienne Emily Hall

                                                    Email / Courriel: Emily Hall

Pfarrkirche St. Peter und Paul

Willisau, Switzerland