The USA Shaolin Temple Gong Rings at the High Line
Stephen Vitiello’s “A Bell for Every Minute” is a site-specific work commissioned for the High Line that premiered in June.
The piece fills the 14th street passage (semi-enclosed tunnel between West 13th and West 14th Streets) with sound recordings of bells taken from all over NYC and beyond. Sounds range from iconic rings of the NY Stock Exchange bell, the historic Dreamland bell (days after it was discovered in the water off Coney Island), the UN Peace Bell, and more everyday and personal sounds of bike bells, dinner bells, and neighborhood church bells, including different bells housed at the USA Shaolin Temple.
During park hours an individual bell will ring each minute, totalling 59 bells, from speakers placed throughout the tunnel, the overtones fading out as the next bell begins. A chorus of all 59 bells will play at the top of each hour, filling the space. Stephen Vitiello describes all the bells singing together from different cultures, the Christian bell, Jewish bell, the Buddhist bell, the cat bell, the falcon bell, as collectively having “the chance to put their voice together – that’s when the piece has its magic”. It’s like Shifu Shi Yan Ming says, “Life is living, life is philosophy”. These different sounds from different cultures, harmonize together, symbolic for the diversity found in this one city. The sounds are represented on a physical sound map allowing the listener to follow the geographic journey of the recordings. Collectively, the bells are a microcosm of the urban landscape as they relate to the sounds captured through the daily life in NYC. The site, much like a bell tower, becomes activated by the composition, inviting the passerby to engage in the High Line and its connection to the city around it.
Background on the artist:
Stephen Vitiello was born in New York City in 1964, and now lives and words in Richmond Virginia, where he is currently an Associate Professor of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).
Head over to the High Line and listen for the USA Shaolin Temple’s gong on the 48th and 53rd minute. Enter at 14th Street Entrance between Washington and 10th Ave.