Friday, May 20, 2011

Rush Rhees Tower Tour

There are two times of year that the Rush Rhees Library lets you go up to the top of the building and see the view, and one of them is right before graduation. I was lucky to go up on a day when it wasn't raining and horrible. It did rain on graduation, by the way. Apparently it was the worst graduation weather in like a million years. That's what I heard on Monday anyway when the volunteers were still trying to get dry.

The tower is rather high up and the railings did not seem adequate to me. The view was good, though. I only wish that the majority of the campus wasn't built in the sixties and seventies, architecture's awkward phase.

It is slightly confusing that the river is in three directions. It also runs past the quad in the first picture. You can also see the airport runways in direction. This funny-shaped building is named after Susan B. Anthony. It is referred to as Sue B. I think if we called Frederick Douglass Freddy D. then we could write lovely rhyming couplets about civil rights in the nineteenth century.

The river runs through the background of this picture too, behind the stadium, even though you can barely tell that it's there.

On the way up in the tower I got to stop and watch the carillon lady play the carillon. I didn't realize the campus had a carillon until it started playing as I walked out the door one day. I think it's a beautiful, happy, Christmasy sound, but one of my student workers referred to it as "that creepy Halloween music that plays sometimes," so to each her own. I told the carillon lady that my great-grandfather played the carillon, and she let me into the booth to look at it. She said I could take lessons if I wanted, but I'm not sure I'm coordinated enough. However, if I can get the university to pay for it, it would be fun. I wonder how I can word my application to take carillon lessons so that it sounds like it's necessary for my job. That may take some doing.

Anyway, in case you wanted to know what the view was like from the tower, now you do. It is possible to go higher up, to where the carillon bells are, but it is strictly repairmen-only up there. Unless you are an engineering student who sneaks off during a tour, apparently. Honestly, the inside of the tower is basically just hollow with some enormous steel girders in it, and it is not a place I would want to go climbing around in. The carillon booth is just kind of hanging there in empty space (or at least, that's how it feels). To go higher you have to go up a teeny tiny circular stairwell and after that, it is not clear to me. I'm picturing people hanging onto swinging bells for dear life. It does not appeal. HAHAHA I am rocking the puns this week.

Incidentally, in Googling Rush Rhees, president of the university from 1900 to 1935, I discovered that he had a son, also named Rush Rhees. During his father's tenure, Rush Rhees the Younger was expelled from the university for asking, as Wikipedia puts it, "insolent questions." I would like to know what family dinners were like after that. He moved to the UK, became best friends with Wittgenstein, and ended up at Cambridge, so I guess you could say it worked out for him.


Anonymous said...

Wow! This is so cool. I had no idea one could go up there. So lucky that it was a relatively nice day when you had that chance. I did know that they had a carillon. I have seen announcements in the past about concerts and have perhaps even heard it once or twice.

Is their carillon keyboard just a keyboard that uses electronics to make the hammers strike, or is it a "real" keyboard where they have to make the hammers strike by pushing down levers?

Simon said...

The carillon is a real one with funny narrow wooden levers. The only electronics involved are a microphone and speakers that were rigged up so that she can hear the bells when she plays, otherwise she can't hear them at all. That seems strange to me, considering you can hear them awfully well from everywhere else. There is a pretty cool website on it here: