May 1, 2008

What’s MC Backwards? CM: ChimesMaster

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‘Tis the season of tour groups, and Cornell’s team of guides are swarming McGraw Tower in the usual fashion. Those prospective pre-frosh lucky enough to be on tours at 1:10 p.m. are in for an extra special treat – the chimes concert. But there’s just no way these high school students can appreciate the chimes the way Cornell students do, and after all, how could they?
Everyone’s got a favorite jingle. Mine is hands down the theme from Babe, the movie about my favorite little talking piglet. Some like the holiday medleys as we get closer to vacations, and some love hearing “Here Comes the Bride,” even when there’s not a wedding in sight. A rather large sample of my peers led me to one conclusion, though. Anything Disney is a huge hit. Whether it’s “Colors of the Wind” or “A Whole New World,” the Chimesmasters can do no wrong in this area, and rightfully so. “Under the Sea,” when performed by the top floor of McGraw, is a contagious calypso that puts a little spring in our steps.
[img_assist|nid=30376|title=The McGraw Tower.|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]I’ve had my minions on the lookout for the past few weeks to find out what songs are played at which times (shout-out to Amanda Greenbaum, alias Chimesmaster G), and the results have been shocking.
The Chimesmasters don’t just have a passion for music. Nay, they have a passion for irony. On a cold December evening during last semester’s study week, I was haunted by a 6 p.m. rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. Sitting in the 4th floor of Olin Library as an actual blizzard going on outside, I had little room for forgiveness. I dare say I muttered some foul words at the chimes that night.

This past Monday, which if you recall consisted of non-stop rain for literally 24 hours, the Chimesmasters, or the sick-minded people who requested the song, thought it appropriate to play “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.” Catchy song, and the Chimesmaster did a great rendition, but when raindrops are actually fallin’ on our heads, it’s really just a cruel joke.

During the warm weather, it’s not uncommon to hear “Jingle Bells,” and I can’t lie — it can be a little awkward. When I’m wearing sunglasses and flip flops, I really don’t need to be listening to the sweet sounds of winter break.

And then there are the jams that don’t lend themselves as well to jingling as we would have hoped. “Piano Man,” by the nature of the chimes as a musical instrument, just doesn’t work. The notes blend into one atonal mess, and the song is bastardized. I understand that people request certain tunes, but perhaps the Masters can casually sway people away from asking to hear songs like this one.

And then there are the songs unfamiliar to most Cornellians. “The Jennie McGraw Rag” (which you can listen to here)is the first song played at any chimes concert, in honor of Jennie McGraw (obviously) who donated the money for Cornell’s first set of chimes. What a way to be immortalized! How much would I have to donate to get “The Sam Hartzband Shuffle” played every morning, afternoon, and night?
[img_assist|nid=30377|title=A look inside the Tower.|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]It’s impossible to discuss the musical stylings of the clock tower without mentioning the incessant playing of the Alma Mater (which you can hear again right here). This is one of my favorite things about Cornell, and that I can’t deny. There is nothing quite as collegiate as casually singing the lyrics to “Far above Cayuga’s waters” in your head as you walk from White Hall to Goldwin Smith. Despite the occasional flubs on the part of the Chimesmasters in other songs, this tune is always flawless, in part because they play it so many times a day.
In the honor of the beautiful yet fleeting weather here in Ithaca, I plan on spending a great portion of my study week sitting outside, listening to the Chimesmasters play. I just hope they stay away from “Jingle Bells.” Perhaps a rendition of Lil Wayne’s new hit, “Lollipop” would brighten up the week, though.