Offender #1: Castle tower at Cesky Krumlov
I have a pet peeve about the bells about the school bell at my lecture hall. (Yes, if you can get past the idea of having a bell at a university; our classes are organized on a 40-minute duration with 10-minute breaks in between.)
The bell here is a digitized (midi?) version of the bells from a grandfather clock – which is precisely where my pet peeve comes in.
We used to have a grandfather clock – made in West Germany – at home. In the beginning, it was eerie living with a clock that, from my young recollection, only existed in horror movies striking midnight. For the first few months, I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling scared, partly because that period also coincide with my immigration to Canada and enjoying (suffering?) a large room all by myself. The chimes of the clock would permeate into all corners of our house, though hopefully I did not derive any nightmares from it.
Nonetheless, I grew to love the grandfather clock. Its lovely chimes every quarter-hour, the telling of the hour, and the tick-tocks that became the background music in the house. However, the clock is now sold to a family friend, and I still miss the beautiful craftsmanship or gears and chimes that accompanied me for part of my formative years.
Perhaps it was such my endearment to a grandfather clock that predisposes my dislike for the current bells from my school.
Firstly, it is a midi-synthetic tone of a grandfather clock. From the warm, organic voice of a clock, which could also foreshadow death in horror movies; it became a tonal arrangement of the mundane and bored. This I can still accept; it is just a tune broadcast over the PA system, not a state-of-the-art acoustic system.
But what drives me nuts is this: the tune broadcast is always the hourly chime, regardless of the time of the hour, and whether it is at the beginning or the end of class.
Part of the beauty of living with a grandfather clock is the anticipation of the hour. That it chimes every fifteen minutes, starting from the shortest and simplest tune at the first quarter, adding subsequently, and ending with a flourish at the top of the hour with a number of chimes representing the hour of the day.
The clock became a background furniture in the house, it carried on in the background often without my noticing. But once in a while I would hear the start of the grinding gears, and I would peel my ear for it, listening for the time through the music.
It is the idea that the tune represents something, however humble, but that is ignored and transformed into a bastardized tool used at my classroom. Such is my angst, and peeve about the sound.
Offender tower #2: church tower
One of my most pleasant experience with time and clock chimes was in Cesky Krumlov, a small town two-hours away from Prague. We explored the idyllic town in the middle of winter, whilst also complaining that my Canadian Olympic mittens weren’t warm enough.
And I heard it, a chime from the local church tower, ringing, chiming, telling the time. The chimes were not particularly beautiful nor impressive, but it filled and permeated the air. At that moment I imagined locals and tourist alike, all pausing for a few seconds and shared the communal time. The thought that came to my mind was, “it would be pretty nice to live in a town with a permanent clock tower.”
However, I was proven wrong, for a few minutes later there was another chime from another clock tower. I could not enjoy the chime or the atmosphere from that time piece; for at least one of the clock towers have the wrong time. I crosschecked with my watch (recently synchronized with the CBC radio time signal), and realized that both were off by minutes. And unless I become the mayor of the town, I probably cannot change or synchronize the time.
That would also drive me nuts.