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stephen vitiello

Goodbye Bells

I went to a wedding yesterday that was held in a field just a few miles from the Ashokan reservoir. The gentleman who officiated spoke of the Ashokan  — the deepest of several upstate reservoirs that provide water to New York City — as a metaphor for the reserves that each of us needs in a marriage. It’s the source we can always turn to, if we’re lucky to know that it’s there.

Of course I thought of the two bells from the Ashokan Center, a place dedicated to teaching about nature, history, farming and the arts in the Catskills, that ring every day on the High Line in Stephen Vitiello’s “A Bell For Every Minute” exhibit. The first bell rings at eleven minutes past the hour and it’s a sleigh bell. The second is the dinner bell, and it rings at thirty-nine past.

Tomorrow Vitiello’s exhibit goes silent. It’s been a great gift to visitors on the High Line, an audio map of sounds from all over New York City and slightly beyond. All that’s left to say is thanks to this artist for his wonderful sound track, and to the Friends of the High Line for making a home for it this past year.

I’m sad that Vitiello’s exhibit is coming down — for me it has been a defining part of the High Line experience — but there are a million sounds to hear in the big city and what this exhibit did was remind us to listen. There’s no more artistic narrative — 59 bells every hour, with a chorus at the end — just the noisy cacophony of this great city.

To learn more about Stephen Vitiello, visit his website here. Or check out his sound cloud here.


Readers of this blog know that I have been mourning the impending loss of Stephen Vitiello’s “A Bell For Every Minute” exhibit, which comes down on June 20th.  But you can be consoled by a very cool exhibit in the new section of the park — at around 21st Street — by the artist Sarah Sze. There’s a way in which this is a “living” exhibit: there are trays with seeds to attract birds and orange and apple slices to attract butterflies. And the little bird houses in the sky make a nice contrast to the sturdy human abodes that you can see in the distance, through the exhibit — the stately water towers of the Lincoln Towers apartment building and the Empire State Building.

I caught this fella, a house wren, early this morning. If you were a bird, isn’t this where you’d want to be?