The State Government of Victoria commissioned the Federation Bell project in 1998. You can read the history here.
In 2009 Harry Williamson of Spring Innovations was initially engaged by the City of Melbourne to repair the playing mechanisms. After much work and 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 to upgrade the lighting system which now responds to the current musical program . The lighting system is unusual in that it incorporates forward looking self protection against overheating to which otherwise highly efficient LED lighting is especially prone.
In fact now all the temperature sensitive components – the servers, light, public display screen, and light-box lighting 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 we 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 video monitor (driven from the main Computer housed under the slab), 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 withtemerature management as described above, and a networked MIDI interface for keyboards on the middle terrace to directly control the Bells and Lights.
Spring Studio continues to develop and manage the remote control access system that enable the day to day running and tuning of the system, providing secure access to the Server that plays the Bell Playlists, and facilitates Arts Programs run from the Arts Centre, program management by curators.
A Novel Approach
- The novel 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 honored by playing suitable music.
- Annual Composition Competitions have been run by the Music Program Manager.
- Playlists now draw from many hundreds of increasingly exciting compositions submitted by local and visiting composers.
- Large groups of schoolchildren now make the Federation Bells a ‘must see’ stop on their visits to Melbourne.
- 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 and there are now many outstanding compositions that enthrall visitors. I enjoy demonstrating some of the most original works when onsite, 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, but in different ways.
International Jazz Festival
Recently 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 the Melbourne International Jazz festival. It featured several difficult time signatures and really pushed the Band and the Instrument to their limits. A film of the event was made.
- Incorporates a sequencer and sound samples to record and play both existing MIDI files and new original compositions offline, anywhere, anytime.
- A visitor is able to access the bells via the app at the site at specific times, generally in between schedules, and early evening
- Includes a simple game and viewer to show what pieces are playing and scheduled.
- This app is free and available for both iPhone and Android.
Spring studios produced the stereo bell sample set which is available as a Kontakt Patch on this page