New development and composition of the school bell, Kunst am Bau project, Schule Spiegel Bern, 2021
Idea, concept and project management: Ines Marita Schärer
Concept and composition: Julian Zehnder
As part of the Kunst-am-Bau competition for the new building of the elementary school Spiegel Köniz, the concept for an artistic elaboration of the new break bell was selected by Ines Marita Schärer. For the conception and realization she invited the composer Julian Zehnder.
The bell has a specific task in everyday school life; it functions as a time marker, which marks the beginning and end of each lesson. But how can a break bell be rethought and composed in a contemporary learning environment, as well as support and accompany the schoolchildren and teachers in their everyday life? These questions were decisive for the nely developed concept; instead of an authoritarian signal, the bell is to be understood as a pulsating element that invites, be it to gather and learn together, to take a break or to go home. This approach takes into account natural rhythms, such as the times of day, moods, learning phases, etc. The project leaves the signal as an organ of control and proposes an acoustic experience characterized by a collective listening: depending on the time of day and the mood, both calm and animating spheres of sound are heard, lasting several minutes. These acoustic events create a collective rhythm and synchronize arriving and leaving, beginning and ending, focusing and relaxing. The sounds do not fall silent, but continue to resonate outside: an installation built into the canopy processes past ring tones in real time, leading to the next signal in constantly transforming sound textures. The compositional design of the installation is left to a specially developed computer program that behaves dynamically and unpredictably, similar to a natural network. Thus, the sound events, together with the installation on the outdoor area, have a presence, are accompanying, like the breathing of an organism, and animate the substance of the new architecture.
In a one-week cycle, the ringtones change continuously. This temporal accompaniment in the daily school routine trusts in attentive, mindful listening; the students are not patronized, but should be able to develop in their autonomy and self-responsibility. The conception and elaboration has been developed in exchange with the schoolchildren as well as various pedagogues.
In our society, the design of functional signals, as well as the conception of acoustic spaces in general, is strongly neglected. The work brings these marginalized sensory levels into focus, sensitizes and encourages close listening. The artistic project, which nevertheless has a functional role in everyday school life, also has the potential to be an identity-forming feature of the school for outsiders as well as for the students and staff.