David Maker Rings in a New Sport (Released: 10/12/00)
By Allison Thompson, Office of University Communications
STORRS, Conn. -- At first glance, David Maker, an associate professor of music and associate department head, doesn't look like much of a maverick. As he discusses the University Carillon and his successful and controversial attempt to adapt the English sport of change ringing to it, it becomes apparent that first impressions can be deceiving.
Of the thousands of people who "ring changes" in England and the handful who do it in the United States, Maker is the first one in the world to try the sport on a carillon, which operates bells through a series of connector rods. Updating the centuries-old sport for the new millennium hasn't exactly made traditionalists happy.
"When I try to talk about this, it's heresy," Maker says. "They won't discuss it."
By change ringing on the carillon, Maker has altered a tradition that dates back more than 350 years. Normally, change ringing is done by a team playing a set of bells. Each team member pulls a rope to play his or her assigned bell. Intricate musical patterns are produced when the members change the order in which they play. These permutations, in which no series is repeated exactly, can sometimes take hours to complete.
In Maker's version of the sport, he and up to four other people stand at the carillon's keyboard. Until recently, each person always played one or two assigned keys, simply changing the order in which they did so. Last year, Maker further adapted the sport so that instead of playing the same keys at different times, the players now play different keys at the same time. Maker has dubbed it the "Twister" version because the players end up reaching across each other in order to strike their assigned keys.
"It is crowded," Maker says. "It is violating your personal space."
In order to make the sport accessible to everyone, Maker has wrapped each key with a different colored rubber band. On large pieces of poster board, he has meticulously written out "sheet music" for dozens of patterns. On each board, the number of the key is written in the same color as the rubber band wrapped around it.
"It's especially appealing to people who like patterns and math," Maker says of his unique sport.
Change ringing isn't the only special thing about UConn's carillon. Housed in Storrs Congregational Church, the carillon is the only example in North America of publicly owned bells housed in a privately owned church.