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The Conversion of St Paul: Sample 1​/​Permutation 1

from The Bible in Translation: Bonus material [album] by John Harvey



The composition is based upon a recording of bell ringing at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, made while standing at the north side of building and facing west. The sound, produced by a ringing method called the Cambridge Surprise Maximus is heard to reflect off the façade of Chapter House, opposite, and thereby produce a natural reverberation, delay, and doubling of the audio image. Four 3-second samples were extracted from the recording, of which two, on this album, are used as the basis for composition. Thus, an individual sample preserves only a portion of the sequence of tuned bells.

The samples are divided into twelve consecutive sections (corresponding to the number of bells used to perform the ring), each 250ms long. These sections are reordered, digitally, following arithmetical systems of permutation derived from the principles of method ringing. In method ringing (which is a form of change ringing) each bell is given a number (1–12 in the case of the bells at the Cathedral). The sequence is permuted by swapping the position of two bells.

Permutation: a pair of alternate numbers change in each sequence.

Personnel: St Paul’s Cathedral Guild of Ringers and John Harvey

Instrumentation: Adobe Audition 3.0, Apple MacBook Pro OS X 10.8, bells of St Paul’s Cathedral, Sony ECM-DS70P microphone, and Sony MZ-RH10 Hi-MD Walkman Digital Music Player/Recorder.

Source: sample recorded at St Paul's Cathedral, London, UK, February 20, 2005.



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John Harvey Ceredigion, UK

I’m a practitioner and historian of sound art and visual art, and Emeritus Professor of Art at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, UK. My research field is the sonic and visual culture of religion. I explore the sonic articulations of the Christian religion by engaging visual, textual, and audible sources, theological and cultural ideas, and systemic and audiovisualogical processes. ... more

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