Lights, music, seismology launch Campanile centennial celebration

Lights and ethereal music met history, technology and seismology Tuesday night in the kickoff to the Campanile’s centennial celebration, as the iconic tower at the center of campus became, for 30 memorable minutes, the center of attention as well.

Those 30 minutes came in the form of three 10-minute performances that observers — standing, sitting or lying on their backs by the Bancroft Library — could see, hear and capture on smartphones. As the Campanile’s north and west walls took turns flashing a dazzling white light beneath overcast skies and a full moon, the campus reverberated with the music of recorded and live bells, the entire show modulated in real time by data from the UC Berkeley seismometer inside the nearby Hayward Fault.

Ken Goldberg and crowd

Ken Goldberg (right, in wool cap), an artist, professor and co-founder of the Berkeley Center for New Media, breaks down the idea and the technology behind Tuesday’s installation and performance. (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

The installation — a collaboration that involved the Berkeley Center for New Media, the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, the Department of Music, the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and Meyer Sound, under the leadership of BCNM’s Greg Niemeyer and Ken Goldberg, CNMAT’s Ed Campion and the Seismo Lab’s Peggy Hellweg — bore the title Natural Frequencies, a reference to “the response of structures and systems to external forces.”

Based on real-time seismological data, lights pulsed at varying intensities and synthesized bells rang out in three 10-minute stretches to the live, otherworldly accompaniment of University Carillonist Jeff Davis and graduate student Tiffany Ng.

To sample the evening’s festivities, see the short video above. The full, 10-minute performance is here.