Illness, Metaphor, and Bells: Campanology Under COVID-19
October 5, 2021 (Tuesday) — 5:15 pm to 7:30 pm
Penn Music Building
201 S. 34th Street, Room 101
Throughout the past year, bells have rung in a variety of COVID-related rituals in the West, ranging from large-scale religious and civic rites, to ad hoc neighborhood and hospital initiatives, to anti-racist memorials that simultaneously spoke to the health crisis at hand. Taking stock of how these COVID bell-ringing rituals were formalized, their structures and actions, and the historical precedence from which they drew their meanings, this presentation investigates what the sounds of bells and the rituals of bell-ringing communicated about COVID, how they shaped our personal and collective experiences of the crisis, and what functions they served within this liminal period. This study reveals that, owing to the longstanding but unstable meanings of bells themselves, those rituals generated vivid symbolisms and mobilized powerful emotions that sometimes brought unintended consequences.
Remi Chiu is associate professor of musicology at Loyola University Maryland, specializing in Renaissance music and in the historical intersections between music and medicine. He is the author of Plague and Music in the Renaissance, published by Cambridge University Press (2017), and the editor of a companion volume of Renaissance plague polyphony entitled Songs in Times of Plague. His research into the music of past epidemics has yielded some unexpected insights into music-making under COVID-19, and an article on the topic was published last year in Frontiers of Psychology. In addition to epidemic disease, he also studies the use of music in medical and scientific entertainments at the end of the nineteenth century.
This event is part of the Department of Music’s main Colloquium Series, which showcases new research by leading scholars in music and sound studies and composers both in the United States and internationally.