Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The tolling of the bells

29 March 2010. A normal day...or was it?

In my Culture class in late afternoon we talked about troikas and bell-ringing.

I remember being on a plane several years ago and finding myself resigned to reading the airline magazine. That particular issue featured a story on the nearly extinct art of bell-ringing, which is officially known as campanology. I remember reading about the complexities of the melodies and rhythms; about the physical strength required.

Fast-forward to our conversation in class. What associations do you have with bells? A church service, a wedding, a certain time of day...maybe even a school-bell.

Old Russian Orthodox culture (before Soviet times), as it turns out, had its own bell system. I highly recommend doing a little online research if you're interested in this sort of thing. In addition to different moments in the church calendar, the bells marked different seasons of life...much like in the rest of Europe, but with a certain Russian flair. continue/-

For example, the perebor was used when someone had died. The bells were all rung one at a time, once each, from smallest to greatest, and then rung all together at the end. This symbolized the progression of one's life from birth to death.

Of course, Russian Orthodox is often tied to superstition, and one belief held is that listening to the bells will drive out sickness (our instructor assured us of this).

As I stared out the window and drifted off into daydreams, I thought to myself, I am going to pay more attention to the bells from now on...if there are any, that is. Perhaps on Easter Sunday?

I returned home late in the evening to learn that many people in Moscow had, in fact lost their lives that day. In another age, the bells would have tolled for them...

Today I was walking to class and I listened for bells, but there were only the sounds of the city.

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