The State Government of Victoria commissioned the Federation Bell project in 1998. You can read the history here.
In 2009 Spring Innovations was commissioned by the City of Melbourne to repair the playing mechanisms. After much analysis, it was determined that new mechanisms and control systems were required.
In 2011 Spring Innovations won the tender to design, develop and manufacture state of the art mechanisms that would allow the full potential of the Bells to be realised.
In April 2012 the new system was launched with live public performances, including a special piece by Deborah Cheetham for voice and Bells, and a well attended night-time concert of new music.
Since then Spring Innovations has collaborated with the City of Melbourne and Creative Victoria to upgrade the lighting system which now responds to the current musical program . The Multicoloured LED spotlights are unusual. They incorporate forward looking self protection against overheating which otherwise would damage them.
All the temperature sensitive components – the servers, lights, public display screen, and light-box are all individually protected against the fierce heat of Melbourne summer where it can reach over 40 degrees for several days. This is typical of the protection strategy devised for this iconic installation, which receives many thousands of excited visitors annually.
Spring Innovations adapted a City of Melbourne Sign Box that had been damaged and marked for recycling, and installed a bright video monitor, which shows current events and items of interest, a WiFi hot-spot to allow visitors to play the Bells via the ground breaking app, a logging thermal probe to help with temperature management as described above, and a networked MIDI interface for keyboards to directly control the Bells and Lights.
Spring Innovations continues to develop and manage the remote control access which enables the day to day running and tuning of the system, providing secure access to the Server that plays the Bell, and facilitates Arts Programs run from the Arts Centre and program management by curators.
A Novel Approach
- The Bell mechanisms, designed and built from scratch by Spring Innovations may be adjusted remotely.
- New compositions are uploaded and played in moments
- AFL Team Anthems for each team in turn sound as fans flock to the nearby MCG to support their heroes.
- Since the AFL anthems were incorporated into the fans experience, there has been a remarkable reduction of graffiti and damage.
- Special compositions have been commissioned and written to celebrate Christmas, the New Year, and other significant occasions.
- International events have been honoured by playing suitable music.
- Annual Competitions is held for Composers with a substantial prize.
- Playlists draw from many hundreds of increasingly sophisticated music submitted by local and visiting composers.
- Large groups of schoolchildren make the Federation Bells a ‘must see’ destination.
- They are delighted with the app interactivity and sense of wonder and fun the Bells provide.
In recent years the continued reliability of the system has encouraged composers to step up to the challenge of writing for such an unusual instrument. There are many outstanding compositions that enthrall visitors. When onsite we enjoy demonstrating some of the most original works, engaging the visitors with information about the bells and their special characteristics. It is true to say the Bells fascinate people from every country, age group and walk of life.
International Jazz Festival
Barney McCall composed a virtuosic piece for his Jazz Band A.S.I.O. and Bells, Transitive Cycles, which was performed to a enthusiastic crowd during the2016 Melbourne International Jazz Festival. It featured several difficult time signatures and really pushed the Band and the Instrument to their limits.
- Incorporates a sequencer and sound samples to record and play both existing MIDI files and new original compositions off line, anywhere, any time.
- A visitor is able to access the bells via the phone app on- site, generally in between schedules, and early evening
- Includes a simple game and viewer to show what pieces are playing and scheduled.
- The app is free and available for both iPhone and Android.
Spring Studio produced the free stereo bell sample set which is available as a Kontakt Patch from this page
This enables the professional composer to incorporate real Bell sounds in larger compositions created on a workstation.