Watch Joey Brink Perform on Rockefeller Chapel's Carillon
Have you ever seen a carillon up close? It looks like a piano that’s exploded out of its wooden home and blown up in size, with tentacle-like bellringers stretching toward the sky. Played by using a keyboard that controls a robust system of bells, like an organ, the carillon is a Medieval instrument that has been played for hundreds of years. And they are big—indeed, Rockfeller Chapel’s carillon is the single largest instrument ever built. Composed of seventy-two bells and 100 tons of bronze, special steel beams in the otherwise completely stone chapel are required to hold the instrument’s weight.
University Carillonneur Joey Brink is the sixth carillonneur in the history of the chapel. He oversees a student guild of carillonneurs, leads tours, and curates carillon programming, as well as playing everything from weddings on the weekends to daily song requests.
He also composes original work for the instrument, such as the electroacoustic PPROM (2018), which premiered at the Rockfeller’s 2018 New Music Carillon Festival.
Brink describes it below:
Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes. At thirty-two weeks into pregnancy this past November, my partner PPROM-ed, and we spent the next nine days in the antepartum unit of the hospital waiting for our baby to arrive. Uncertainty and anxiety dominated our thoughts, mixed in with terror, boredom, excitement, and an overwhelming feeling of unpreparedness—we were supposed to have seven weeks still to figure all this out. Yet we were glad to be spending so much time together: playing games, watching movies, receiving visitors, and brainstorming names for our boy/girl to be, wondering what he/she would be like.
PPROM is a reflection on these nine days in the hospital. The first movement is contemplative, exploring the thoughts that permeated my sleeplessness late at night. A resonant voice and the click of a bicycle chain accompany descending arpeggios on the carillon.
The second movement depicts our daily routine in the hospital: waiting, passing time, listening to the ultrasound, anxiously evaluating the baby’s heartbeat. Waiting for a change. Thinking there is a change, but then no, we’re still waiting. Taking a look again in a few hours. Repeating daily. The pulsing, rhythmic carillon part is accompanied by sounds that have been burned into my mind: a ticking clock, heart rate beeps, and the ultrasound machine.
Brink will play PPROM at 2019’s concluding performance for the Bells of Summer series on Sunday, August 25, as well as selections from his other works, American Songbook classics, and even a song by The Eagles, and more. (See the whole program here.) A tower tour will be offered after the performance.