As a new arrival at BYU I would sit in my dorm, crack the window, and listen to the bell tower. I was captivated by it’s unique overtones. The major mode hymn renditions would take on a mysterious and sometimes comical mood. I enjoyed listening at different distances. A mile off sounded like a memory, half a mile was like a conversation, and up close was a festival siren that left your ears ringing.
One rainy morning I noticed the door at the base of the tower was cracked. I crept in and made my way through the bowels of the tower, then to the base of a long winding staircase. Just as I was about to ascend I was startled by a voice in an adjoining room. “Can I help you?” I hadn’t noticed the practice carillon room just to the right before the stairs. Professor Don Cook and another student, a graduate composer, were organizing some music in the practice room and had left the door open. To my relief, instead of reproach I was given a guided tour. Along with the tour the composition student showed me a piece he was writing for the carillon. After this experience I knew I would write for the bells.
Three Songs for Carillon are just a few of my attempts at writing for this unique instrument. They are just what the title suggests–three songs. I worked closely with keyboardist Ian McKinley and professor Neil Thornock as I wrote these. The recording is Ian McKinley on the Centennial Carillon Tower on BYU Campus, Provo Utah, with audio engineer Cliff Newman recording. We did our best but you’ll still hear a car drive by here and there. Thus is the carillon. Enjoy
-Curtis Nathaniel Smith, 2012