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PATRICK HAZELL'S BELL PROJECTS ---Press Release 6-18-2009
Patrick Hazell has been a professional musician since 1961, touring extensively in America's Midwest, as well as abroad in Europe, Russia, and South America. Though known in Iowa as the "Godfather of Iowa Blues", and is both a member of the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame and the Iowa Rock'N'Roll Music Association Hall Of Fame, his musical interests and over 35 album releases go many directions outside the blues genre.
As a young teen he was inspired by the impressionist piano works of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A recording of Maurice Ravel performing his "La Vallee des Cloches (The Valley of the Bells)", was a favorite. When Hazell began touring professionally in Europe, he often found himself in towns and cities that gave a reality to Ravel's composition. In numerous locations he heard church bells ring on a daily basis-ringing not only to announce the time of day or the beginning of a church session, but would often be rung for long periods of 30 to 45 minutes. When a large bell is rung continuously it creates sound patterns with under and over tones that pulse with harmonics and rhythms that add depth and dimension to the listening experience. For Hazell, these bell rings were inspirational and meditative sonic events that created a desire to hear more of them.
Back in his hometown of Burlington, Iowa, Hazell wondered why the large bells in the nine building sites in the downtown area were rarely sounded except for a few token rings announcing Sunday church services. Never were any rung long enough to create the sonic experience he had heard in Europe. So, Hazell decided to compose and present a ringing sequence that would achieve that effect.
Calling it the Hawkeye Valley Bell Project, he contacted the building managers of the bell sites and found them all open to utilizing their bells for the Project. He then telephoned a couple dozen of his friends to be bell ringers. The bell ringers met at the Blue Shop (a small Burlington concert venue owned by the Hazell family) and coordinated wristwatches were handed to them along with time sheets to indicate when each bell should be rung. Then the bell ringers proceeded to their bell sites. At 7PM they began ringing. Downtown Burlington filled with local citizens similar to the crowds at a typical Fourth of July community fireworks event, and many cheered after the last bell sounded. It was a very successful and magical event.
The ring was written to last for one hour with the bells ringing in different patterns-sometimes only two or three would be ringing, then maybe just one, and eventually all of them. The bells were differently pitched, so the varying ring patterns created tonal shifts and chord changes, though no song or melody was intended. It was designed to be an ambient sound experience. A variety of cadences were included to create rhythmic complexities. Inspired in part by the sonic rhythms of such insects as crickets and cicadas, these cadences overlapped each other to create large interlocking rhythmic cycles. All this in turn would pulse in what one might call a Universal Rhythm, and this is an important compositional aspect of Hazell's music --the realization of being a part of an infinite Musical Universe
Since that time Hazell has produced many more Bell Projects in various locations including Izhevsk, the Capitol of the Udmurt Republic of Russia. The Izhevsk Bell Project was the subject of a television special news story broadcast from Moscow throughout the former Soviet empire. The ring involved the bells of two Russian Orthodox Cathedrals and an 18th century armaments factory having a bell tower erected when the Russians defeated Napoleon in 1815.
In November, 2005, a short documentary of his September 25, 2005 Hawkeye Valley Bell Project was featured in Iowa Public Television's popular series, "Living In Iowa."
Hazell continues to write and produce Bell Projects and is constantly on the lookout for locations which may have promising bell site locations for future rings. Patrick Hazell hopes that his Bell Projects engender in the listener a deeper awareness of the sound environment of his or her community. The bells ring with sound space between the peals. Within this space exist the sound of the community. The totality makes for a continuum of community sounds measured by the rhythm of the bells.
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