(Brian Eno, 2003)

The experiments on this CD sometimes try to simulate existing bells, and (perhaps more profitably) imagine different sorts of bells, bells which may indeed by physically unmakeable. Some of the hypothetical bells have idealized overtone series — where each overtone is the same pure multiple of the one below it. Other hypobells explore reversals or suspensions of some physical laws: what would happen if the highest partials lasted longest? What if the lowest notes were the first to speak, and the higher partials appeared later? What would a large bell made entirely of glass sound like? What if the first chaotic milliseconds of a bell’s ring could be extended over minutes? What if a bell became a drone?

When we started thinking about the Clock of the Long Now, we naturally wondered what kind of sound it could make to announce the passage of time. Bells have stood the test of time in their relationship to clocks, and the technology of making them is highly evolved and still evolving. I began reading about bells, discovering the physics of their sounds, and became interested in thinking about what other sorts of bells might exist. My speculations quickly took me out of the bounds of current physical and material possibilities, but I considered some license allowable since the project was conceived in a timescale of thousands of years, and I might therefore imagine bells with quite different physical properties from those we now know.

Track 1 Fixed Ratio Harmonic Bells (:55 second excerpt)

Track 8 Changes for January 07003, Hillis Algorithm (:54 second excerpt)

Established in 1996 with the goal of fostering long-term thinking, the Long Now Foundation is building a 10,000-year clock — a monumental mechanism in a mountain in Texas that will tell visitors the time and date for the next 10,000 years, and thereby inspire people to imagine (and plan for) a future far beyond our normal temporal horizons. It was for this clock that Brian Eno created the bell sounds heard on his album January 07003. In engineer and computer scientist Danny Hillis’s original conception, the 10,000-year clock “ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium.” In researching bells for the project, however, Brian Eno discovered change-ringing – the art of ringing a given set of bells in every possible permutation, without any sequence being repeated. Eno realized that a set of 10 bells would yield 3,628,800 unique sequences – approximately the number of days in 10,000 years. He asked Danny Hillis to design an algorithm and mechanism to ring the changes for a set of 10 bells, and the 10,000 year clock is now being built to ring one permutation per day, each day’s chime being unique for the minimum life of the clock.
Eno used the sequences of pitches that, according to Hillis’s algorithm, would sound in January 07003, hence the title of the album (the Long Now Foundation writes all years with 5 digits to avoid the Y10K problem). Here we provide excerpts from two tracks that are especially evocative of imaginary instruments. The first emerges from the realm of mathematical perfection: on Track 1, the bells’ harmonic series “is intensely idealized, with each harmonic being precisely 1.66 times the pitch of the one below it.” On Track 8, we hear the sound of “bells made from a very heavy ceramic-metal compound in the year 05102 (shortly after the original bronze set had finally deteriorated beyond repair due to the hyperacidity of the late 4th millennium).”
Text: Brian Eno, liner notes to January 07003 (2003)
Image: Long Now Foundation