For the next few days, I’ll post on the most important reasons for bells in our current time. I look forward to your responses in the comments!
One reason I think tower bells are important today is the occasion they provide for serendipitous beauty. A passerby is walking along, minding her own business, when she suddenly hears a bell (or two, or three, or many) and recognizes it as a beautiful sound—perhaps even as music. It is an unexpected moment of beauty in her day. So many of our aesthetic experiences are curated to us as a discreet entities; I find it endearing to still have artistry interwoven with our daily life. These experiences can also trigger awe and its accompanying effects, as described in an earlier post.
In this respect, tower bells function similarly to public art works. Sculptures, murals, and other outdoor visual arts are meant to provide an aesthetic experience for the passers-by in a public setting. Tower bells are the aural analogue. And how many other aural analogues can you think of? Perhaps music piped onto the sidewalk outside of stores? There are not too many instances of pleasant sounds, let alone music, being performed in public for the enjoyment of an incidental audience.
I personally love the serendipitous moment of beauty that catches me unawares. That’s the stuff I live for! And that will bring me to my next post on the second reason tower bells are important—their function as a soundmark.