Coding for the Carillon
By Hailey Green
“We want to make the Carillon more interactive, to open it up to all students and everyone on campus,” Joey Bonitati, a senior computer science major, said. In fall 2017, the team received a grant from the Information Technology Student Advisory Board for a new electronic system that plays songs on the bells automatically. The $50,000 system represents a marked improvement from the previous version, which only operates half of the bells.
The team divides the project’s tasks based on their interests and skills. Four students focus on the song library, making arrangements of dozens of songs specifically designed to sound good on the bells (e.g., an arrangement with many low notes at once sounds good on a piano but “muddy” on the Carillon bells). Other students handle the more technical aspects of the project, building the app and ensuring smooth communication among the different devices involved in managing and playing songs. The system, which is located in the same room as the bells, plays each song selected using the app by moving the levers of the Carillon accordingly.
The team is determined to show how computer science and art can work together. In 2017 and 2018, the team displayed their work at Artisphere in Greenville, SC as part of Clemson’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) initiative. The Coding for the Carillon booth allowed visitors to play a keyboard that was connected to Clemson’s Carillon thirty miles away. Although their end product will only allow those on campus to interact with the bells, the students’ experiences at Artisphere showed them the power of collaboration when technical disciplines work with the arts.
Once the team finishes designing the app, the students will give the project reins to faculty members in order to integrate the finished product into the Clemson experience. The students connecting the bells to computers and phones hope that the app will be available during campus tours, game days, holidays and regular class days. They believe that everyone on campus should be able to interact with the Carillon as well as hear other students’ voices through the songs of the bells.