The Bell Garden Installation

BellGardenCropSoloSince 1996, Anne Norman has been collecting galvanised iron caps from the top of old electricity poles from various power company depots. These galvanised iron caps were made by the SEC (State Electricity Company of Victoria, Australia) to fit electricity poles made from tree trunks of varying diameters. Their function was to protect the poles from the weather and for mounting insulators above the poles. These iron caps make marvellous microtonal bells and have been performed numerous times by Anne and her colleagues in Victoria and Japan and have been recorded and broadcast by the ABC. In Anne's collection of PP caps, the diameters range from 18cm to 32cm with a pitch range of nearly two octaves from aprox 130 Hz to 440 Hz.

In 2003, Anne received a grant from the Australia Council (the arts funding and advisory body of the Commonwealth Government) towards making two structures: an acoustic performance frame of spring mounted bells (Spring Bells) and an electro-acoustic bell installation known as the Bell Garden.

Bell Garden Photographs

Compositions by various composers featuring power pole bells (MP3)

Phase descriptions of the Bell Garden BG1:

  1. auto play 11 - effect setting #1 (3 minutes)
    a pre-programmed MIDI sequence performed on the bells via the bell striking mechanism.
  2. movement triggered samples2 (min. 62 secs - max.15 minutes)
    an LDR mounted in the stem of each bell flower is triggered by a person moving in front of the bell. Each movement detected triggers a short sample. There are two samples assigned to each bell, the smart controller randomly choosing which of the two to send to the corresponding speaker each time that bell is hit.
  3. manual play 13 - with effect setting #2, #3 & #4 (4 minutes)
    the public are encouraged to play the bells using beaters provided. The sound is modified by three effects settings which are randomly alternated by the smart controller, (min 8 seconds / max 40 seconds per setting).
  4. auto play 2 - effect setting #5 & #6 (5 minutes)
    a second pre-programmed MIDI sequence performed on the bells via the bell striking mechanism.
  5. movement triggered auto strikes (8 minutes)
    for each movement detected by an LDR, the corresponding bell is struck once (max one strike per 0.5sec per bell) by the self striking solenoid. Amplification and multi effects are switched off. Acoustic sound only.
  6. auto play 3 - with effect setting #7 (3 minutes)
    a third pre-programmed MIDI sequence performed on the bells via the bell striking mechanism.
  7. manual play 2 - with effect setting # 7 (3 minutes)
    the public are encouraged to play the bells using beaters provided. This moves seamlessly into the next phase which is simply a change of effect.
  8. manual play 3 - with effect setting # 8 (4 minutes)
    the public are encouraged to play the bells using beaters provided
  9. manual strike triggered samples - (10 minutes)
    each time a bell is manually struck it triggers a sample in addition to producing its own acoustic tone. These are randomly selected from two sets of samples. The first set includes those from phase 2, the second set are short music samples assigned to specific bells. Amplification of the bells and multi-effects are switched off.
  10. recording of spoken instructions (min. 42 secs - max. approx 5 minutes)
    a recording of spoken instructions (12 seconds) is played through the speakers, instructing the public to cease striking the bells. This is triggered (in its entirety) every time the bells are struck (except for bell strikes which overlap the recording). Once 30 secs of silence has been detected, the scheduler proceeds to the next phase.
  11. silence - (30 seconds)
    the bell garden is in a rest state for a further 30 seconds.


    ID# phase name & description
    Schedule Sequence [1 - 2 - 3 - 10 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 2 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11] looped
    Duration: 3 1 4 1 5 8 2 1 3 4 10 1 5 =min 43.5mins



    = max 80.5mins

    The total duration of the sequence could be a minimum of 44 minutes or a maximum of 80 minutes, depending on public interaction during phases 2 & 10. The sequence is repeated in an indefinite loop until turned off.

    1 A small illuminated sign 'Please leave beaters in draw. DO NOT strike the bells' is on during phase 1, as it is in all non-'manual play' phases.

    2 In Phase 2, the lone standing 'bell flower' is assigned four samples of conspiratorial sentences, encouraging a member of the public, who has been detected through the movement sensor, to perform a series of actions. If someone cooperates with the lone bell flower, this phase may be over within 1 minute, with the smart controller switching into the next phase. If the gallery is empty, or the public choose to only interact with the other bells, this phase of movement triggered samples may last up to 15 minutes before switching over to the next phase. In BG1, there are 2 samples assigned to each of the bells (except the lone bell flower which has 4 samples). Movement detected by a particular IR diode will cause the smart controller to randomly select one of that bell's two samples and direct the sample to the speaker nearest to that bell.

    3 A small illuminated sign 'Please strike bells with care' is on during phase 3, as it is for all 'manual play' phases.

Sounds Australian ­ AMC article - Power Pole Bells and the Bell Garden