From bells to squatters: 01SJ events entertaining and enriching
by Julian Peeples

Following the late-night antics of the 01SJ festival’s opening evening, it was probably a good thing that I didn’t plan on attending anything until the late afternoon. But I definitely picked a great performance to start off my second day at the festival.

Bill Fontana composed and broadcast onto the street experimental music using the bells of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and a digital mixer for the second day of the 01SJ Festival.

Second Street dinged and donged with the lovely sounds of church bells, which were the visions of Bill Fontana in his piece, “Sonic Cascades.” Traditional and experimental works written by Fontana sounded from the bells at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. The sounds were captured by a digital mixer that was programmed to replay them in a series of relays.

“Every stroke of the bell plays eight times instead of one,” Fontana said.

The result was a melodious stroll down Second Street that sounded like a slew of wedding, clock towers and centuries-old European towns all rolled into one. Fontana said the aim of the piece was to wake up passers-by to what surrounds them.

The sounds of Fontana’s music emanating from the bell tower brought listeners into the present.

“So many people walk around focused on their own worlds and aren’t aware of the moment,” he said. “I’m interested in creating an experience where they are aware of the moment.”

The evolving nature of cities was the topic of discussion during the keynote speech by noted futurist Stewart Brand. The first of the Great Cities Speaker Series, brought by 1st Act Silicon Valley, Brand spoke about the changing nature of cities worldwide, the coming population boom in the Southern Hemisphere, how opportunity drives great cities and the exploding growth of squatting communities.

Stewart Brand gave the City Hall audience a broad view of issues for cities of the future.

“Squatters are the dominant city builders in the world today,” Brand said, noting that 1 billion people worldwide live in squatter cities.

With technology as simple as the cell phone, Brand said these squatter communities are setting a torrid pace in efficiency, innovation and Green living. It struck me that these communities most in our country look down upon are far more inventive and progressive than the very communities we live in.

Brand’s speech was quite compelling, and it definitely left me wishing he could’ve spoken for another couple hours. In only two days at the festival, I’ve been delighted by visual and audible excursions, but also mentally stimulated by many of the speakers. Some may watch media coverage of the event and just see pretty colors or flashing lights, but the experiences these artists and great minds are creating cannot be duplicated, and cause us to think differently about ourselves and the world around us.

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