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How to Survive the Future Episode 3 & Keep Calm and Carillon

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Ellen Jacquart:  There used to be huge ash trees here and, you know, 25 years ago they were still standing but they were all dead due to the emerald ash borer. So slowly those giants toppled and made big holes in the canopy. So, we've got an uneven aged forest now, because we lost so many of those large trees.

Alex Chambers:  That's Botanist, Ellen Jacquart, remembering the ash trees of yesteryear, which is also this year, because she's talking from the future on episode three of "How to Survive the Future". A new podcast from me, Alex Chambers, and Allison Quantz. This week on Inner States, Allen Jacquart on How to Survive the Future. And a musical mystery at the radio station. First, it's How to Survive the Future, Episode Three. McCormick's Creek State Park.

Alex Chambers:  Hello.

Ellen Jacquart:  Hi.

Alex Chambers:  I think walking and talking will be good, and then maybe at some point we'll sit quietly and talk a bit. If you're open to that?

Ellen Jacquart:  I am. I have until 11:30.

Alex Chambers:  That's totally fine.

Ellen Jacquart:  Alright.

Ellen Jacquart:  Oh, that's a pretty one.

Alex Chambers:  What's that?

Ellen Jacquart:  Appendaged Waterleaf, or Great Waterleaf, because it's the greatest waterleaf, it really is. There are several other species, but smaller flowers, blah kind of looking frankly. This is just a gorgeous one. Look at those flowers.

Alex Chambers:  Wow, yeah that sort of lavender.

Ellen Jacquart:  It's an exuberant, just so many buds and flowers on one plant. And that's a really small plant. A big plant can be, you know, two feet around with just dozens and dozens of flowers hanging on it. There's one surviving in the midst of the metals. Good luck, buddy.

Ellen Jacquart:  Botanists are so used to this phenological calendar, that we know when things are going to be flowering. And when we see things that are flowering, a full month earlier than they used to, it's hard not to see that and realize that has implications. I mean we all love seeing flowers, so seeing them earlier in the year, that's great! But, they're supposed to have pollinators. And the insects that are pollinating them, aren't necessarily following the same schedule that the plants are. The plants are tuned into day length and temperature. And insects, you know, may have a different calendar. So if we've got plants flowering and the pollinators aren't out yet, that's a big problem.

Ellen Jacquart:  When I started working for the Nature Conservancy, I took a trip up to near Michigan City, Indiana, where we had a beautiful fen, called Trail Creek Fen. I went up with the steward that handled that site, and we walked happily through the fen in our rubber boots, because it was mucky and there was skunk cabbage and there was marsh marigold and there was all kinds of stuff there. And then, I got to this part of the fen and there was huge shrub. It was about eight feet tall and about eight feet wide, and it was massive! And I thought, I do not know what this thing is.

Ellen Jacquart:  I started looking in guides and there were no flowers to look at, at that point, and I could not figure out what it was. Then I looked around the base of it, and I saw hundreds and hundreds of little shrublings that were clearly the same species as whatever this was. And I realized, oh, no, this has got to be something non-native and it must be invasive, because look at all of this. And finally, we put together all the clues we could. We looked in the guide and we came out to privet. It really struck at my heart, because this was a fen that had lady's slipper orchids, it had all this stuff. And as those little privet shrubs were going to grow, they were going to completely shade that stuff out.

Ellen Jacquart:  And what really made the biggest impression on me, as I was kind of stomping out of the fen back to the truck, thinking about how much time and energy it was going to take the steward to cut out that big one, and then deal with the smaller ones, I finally raised my eyes and I looked at the neighbor. The neighboring property was a house about 100 yards away, and they had a hedge. And that hedge was eight foot tall privet all around the house.

Ellen Jacquart:  For the first time, it was truly clear how landscaping with invasive plants was really decimating our nature preserves. I haven't been back there in years, but I'm wondering what it looks like now. Because it's not an easy thing to engage with a neighbor, and convince them to get rid of a very large hedge. And I was afraid that the future was not bright for that fen.

Ellen Jacquart:  I am Ellen Jacquart, I am a retired Ecologist, and spend my time hiking and looking at wild flowers and doing native landscaping in my yard.

Ellen Jacquart:  We are in McCormick's Creek State Park. It is late Spring, kind of late May, where a lot of the early Spring wildflowers have started to fade. But the late Spring wildflowers are in full glorious bloom.

Alex Chambers:  How long have you been coming to McCormick's Creek?

Ellen Jacquart:  Just about fifty years, yeah, it's a long time. [LAUGHS]

Alex Chambers:  And has it changed?

Ellen Jacquart:  Well, probably the biggest change that I notice, is when I walk through. 50 years ago there were little dirt pads, those were the trails. And then about 30 years ago they decided, no, these need to be bigger trails to accommodate the increasing people that were coming to enjoy the park. And it turned into gravel trails that were ten feet wide. And then, more people came and the gravel wasn't holding up well. So, they decided that they needed to make them wider and asphalt. So now, much of the park what used to be small trails, it kind of looks like county roads going through them, without the dashed line in the middle. So the trails have got bigger, which has broken up the forest even more, and there's still a problem with the deer population.

Ellen Jacquart:  The deer had been identified as a problem at McCormick's Creek State Park, many years ago, forty years ago. And they've tried to reduce the population, but it hasn't been as successful as it should be. So we find that a lot of the most palatable species, the things that deer want to eat, kind of disappear. And we get more and more nettles. We're going to see a lot of nettles.

Alex Chambers:  And what are some of the ones that they have been eating?

Ellen Jacquart:  Oh, the trilliums, they love the trilliums, the orchids, the Showy Orchis is a nice late Spring flower and it's really unlikely we're going to see one today. Because deer just love orchids, and so those are pretty much gone. The ones that hang on are Guyandotte Beauty because it's a mint and it tastes funny, the deer don't tend to eat it as much. So, that we still have.

Ellen Jacquart:  Another change we've seen is, there used to be huge ash trees here, and, you know, 25 years ago they were still standing but they were all dead due to the Emerald Ash Borer. So slowly those giants toppled and made big holes in the canopy. New species came up. Not as many oaks as were in the canopy before, because these small light gaps don't really help oak species that much. So, we've got an uneven aged forest now, because we lost so many of those large trees. There's lots of little patches of young trees filling in behind the ash that all died.

Alex Chambers:  And did the ashes die in the twenty-teens was it?

Ellen Jacquart:  Yes. Emerald Ash Borer first came in in 2001 in Michigan, 2005 in Indiana, I believe. And really the first ash deaths in this area of McCormick's Creek, oh gosh, it was probably 2015 or so. And then they slowly died one by one.

Alex Chambers:  I see. Shall we go down here? Okay.

Alex Chambers:  So did people just realize with the Ash Borer, that it was just inevitable?

Ellen Jacquart:  Yeah, in the early years there was a sense of somehow we would keep it from moving outside of Detroit, where it came in. And they set up, what they called "fire breaks" where they would go in, and on a very large scale, remove all ash trees for like a mile wide. This was in Northern Indiana, where to tried to keep it from coming in. And that did not work. And so it came in, and slowly spread through the state moving to the south. And now it's pretty well established, and we've got very few ash trees left. There's one species called Blue Ash, and there's some of that in this park. And it doesn't seem as susceptible to Emerald Ash Borer. So there's still Blue Ash, but the White Ash, the Green Ash, Black Ash and Pumpkin Ash, pretty much all died.

Ellen Jacquart:  McCormick's Creek State Park is a big State Park, and the first State Park created in Indiana. And it's known for having just spectacular plants, native plants and the spring wildflower displays in particular. And I remember being there, you know, when I was younger and just being blown away by the number of species and then just the sheer display, the swaths, these hoards of native plants. There's a place where I used to go, where there are a couple of big old logs, sycamores that had come down and just kind of criss-crossed in this low area which was right next to the stream that flows into McCormick's Creek.

Ellen Jacquart:  So you've got this Creekside location. And all along the way you're seeing Green Dragon and Jack-in-the-pulpit and Spring Beauty and Celandine Poppy and all of the beautiful Spring Ephemerals. And later in the season, those have just started to fade. The pink Turtlehead would come out. And until it's in flower, you don't even notice that plant, because it's about a foot tall, it's not huge. The leaves aren't really noticeable. But then suddenly it comes into flower, and it's called Turtlehead, because the flower looks like a turtlehead on end. Like the mouth of the turtle is sticking up into the sky. And the common species is the cream colored Turtlehead, which is a nice little plant. But pink Turtlehead? You've got all these little pink Turtleheads and it's like a field of them as you're walking along the trail, hundreds and hundreds of plants.

Ellen Jacquart:  And a sight that you wouldn't see anywhere else in Indiana, because it really is a pretty rare plant. But just an absolute abundance of it, as you just walk through and look at those beautiful plants.

Alex Chambers:  And what were some of the shrubs and plants that did used to be here?

Ellen Jacquart:  Well, there used to be a Nodding Trillium, lots and lots of Nodding Trillium. Prairie Trillium, Toad Shade those are also Trillium species. Oh, this used to be a place for Putty-Root Orchid. There was Putty-Root Orchid everywhere, which is one of those strange winter orchids. We have a couple of orchids in Indiana that they put out their new leaf in late Fall, and it over-winters. Because you know, plenty of sun is coming through because the trees don't have any leaves on. It's photosynthesizing all winter. Then come next May, it puts up the shoot of orchid flowers, about a foot tall. And then the flowers get pollinated, they produce their fruits. And that leaf that was out all winter, is shriveling up and dying, so it really doesn't even have a leaf in the summer. Come Fall, new leave goes out.

Ellen Jacquart:  And there was so much Putty-Root in this State Park. It's a really cool one.

Alex Chambers:  Wow. I'd love to see that. So trilliums, Putty-Root. Oh, what's that?

Ellen Jacquart:  You've got it! That's Putty-Root.

Alex Chambers:  That's Putty-Root?!

Ellen Jacquart:  That's why I can't believe you did that!

Alex Chambers:  Amazing! [LAUGHS]

Ellen Jacquart:  In the midst of nettles, you can't grab it. So, I don't even see the leaf at the base, it's completely dead, brown. Oh wait, there it is, there it is. That's the Putty-Root leaf that was out all winter.

Alex Chambers:  Oh yeah, and the familiar orchid leaf.

Ellen Jacquart:  I was really looking for that, hoping we would see it. There it is! That's the Putty-Root Orchid. It's getting pollinated right now.

Alex Chambers:  Oh, yeah.

Ellen Jacquart:  And then it will turn into little hanging fruit brown pods that have the seeds.

Alex Chambers:  Okay.

Ellen Jacquart:  How fun! Yeah, there are places where there is a lot today. But it can be hard to see. Especially if it's just brown back there, it kind of blends in and you don't notice it, given the color of those flowers. Kind of a crimson dark brown/yellowish green.

Alex Chambers:  Yeah. I feel like it's a strange and unusual stalk in flowers, but the flowers themselves aren't particular exciting.

Ellen Jacquart:  No, you have to get up really close and then look into them to see the complexity of an orchid flower.

Alex Chambers:  Right, yeah, I can see that close-up.

Ellen Jacquart:  So, when I was working 40, 50 years ago, the single biggest hazard that our workers had out in the field was ticks and tick-related illnesses. As the years went by, we saw an incredible increase, not only in the number of ticks that we saw, in the range of the ticks. Because when I started my career, Lone Star Ticks were known from counties in Southern Indiana near the Ohio River. The Lone Star Ticks are now all over the Indiana Dunes National Park. So they've expanded their ranges, the populations are higher in part because the invasive shrubs have really dominated the understory of a lot of our forest systems. And when those shrubs make that sort of dense thicket in the understory, it provides cover for the small mammals, for the deer who are the hosts for the ticks.

Ellen Jacquart:  So there were a couple groundbreaking studies back 50 years ago, that pointed out that, if you go in and you count the number of ticks in a forest, that has Asian Bush Honeysuckle in the understory, and then you remove all the Asian Bush Honeysuckle. And you back and you count the ticks, there's a significant reduction in the number of ticks. And what it means for people is that the Public Health Office notes that there's a significant reduction in the tick-carried illnesses. And those include not just Lyme disease - which is pretty well-known - and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which has been a bad problem in Southern Indiana. But also Ehrlichiosis and some others that I can't even remember the names of. It seems like about every five years or so, a new disease was identified that we didn't realize before, that the field workers had had it, but nobody knew what it was.

Ellen Jacquart:  And then they would trace it, and it would be traced to a tick and it would be a new tick-carried illness.

Ellen Jacquart:  As that threat spread and more and more people became aware of the health implication of invasives, they actually were able to pass more stringent regulations. So that plants that were going to be sold, had to go through an assessment and shown to be non-invasive before they could be sold. But it wasn't magic pixie dust that just made all the invasives, already out there on the landscape, disappear. And they didn't disappear, they seemed to do better with climate change, the slightly higher CO2. The earlier growing season is something that invasive species can often adapt to better than native plants. And so, where we had invasions, they continued to spread unless the landowner or the public agency was willing to go in and control those invasives.

Ellen Jacquart:  And, you know, they had to make hard choices. I think in those years, agencies in particular, became a lot more strategic about, we've got all of these acres, where do we have enough money to spend, and be able to remove the invasives and protect the biodiversity that we have? And so in most public areas now, you'll see almost what you might call sacrifice areas that have just grown up in Oriental Bittersweet, and Asian Bush Honeysuckle. But where there was diversity in the nicest areas, they've drawn a line and that's where they focused their efforts. So that way, we still have some remnants that you can walk to and see what things looked like once upon a time, before invasives really took over much of the landscape.

Ellen Jacquart:  We're seeing some of the Spring of Femerals that are now fading, like the Mayapple flowers. Ooh, we've got the ferns that are coming out. Here's a nice fern, look at this, oh, I love this one. This is Glade Fern, it is just this tall tufts of ferns, and just simple pinnae on the frond. And it's a fern that really likes moist woods and that's what this is. And most importantly, deer don't eat ferns, almost ever. In Ancient history when Brown County State Park had such high deer populations, that the hills were actually brown. That was 1989, and it was my first year in Indiana. And I could not believe, in the middle of Summer, I was seeing these huge hills that were brown.

Ellen Jacquart:  The only green left was Christmas Fern and a few other ferns that the deer refused to eat.

Ellen Jacquart:  What was really most dramatic about Green's Bluff Nature Preserve, and what drew attention to it, and what got it protected by the Nature Conservancy, back in the 1960s, were the Hemlocks. There were these gorgeous remnant stands of Hemlock, lining the bluffs. And they were there because when the glaciers were there, it was cool enough, it was wet enough, they established. And as the glaciers receded, they held on in these little ridges and canyons where they were protected from the heat of the middle of the day. And they were beautiful. And then as the years went on they stopped reproducing so much. We just weren't seeing young Hemlocks in the stand anymore.

Ellen Jacquart:  And we figured that that tied to climate change, and that we were seeing mortality amongst some of the older Hemlocks. And, well maybe it's just too warm, it's too dry in late Summer due to the changes we were seeing in the climate. And that was not helping. But the final nail in the coffin was Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. That's a little bug, looks like a kind of a mealy bug, that attacks Hemlocks specifically. We had been waiting for it to arrive in Indiana for decades, hoping that it would stay away. Because we are hundreds of miles from the closest Hemlock stand in Kentucky, and we had hoped we were safe. Unfortunately, it came in the way I was afraid it would.

Ellen Jacquart:  People are buying Hemlocks for landscaping, and they're coming from Tennessee and North Carolina, both of which are covered in Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. And so some it came in on one of those landscaping trees, and then it moved out into Green's Bluff. It was about ten years ago, the last one pretty much died.

Alex Chambers:  Do you remember the moment when you realized that it had come to Indiana?

Ellen Jacquart:  Yep, because I have been for many years. They send out reports from the Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology. I used to work with them as a partner, and every time there's a new insect pest they send out a report. And I saw that report and my heart sank. I had tried for years to get that division to put an external quarantine on Hemlock, meaning that we would not bring Hemlock into the state because of that very risk. We saw twice in Michigan, that it was landscaping Hemlocks that brought Hemlock Woolly Adelgid into Michigan, and now they're fighting it. But they didn't do a quarantine and those Hemlocks kept coming in and it finally spelled the end of Hemlock in Indiana.

Ellen Jacquart:  That's unfortunate. Idiots. Let me just put you in here. It had a few roots on it, and they're pretty good at re-rooting.

Alex Chambers:  And what is that?

Ellen Jacquart:  Wild Ginger. Oh, I should have shown you. Wild Ginger, that's the flower and the fruit is being produced there. If it can re-root, maybe those seeds will finish ripening and be able to start more plants. It's a real shallow-rooted plant. I use it a lot in my landscaping, because it makes a beautiful carpet, like there of Wild Ginger. So that's kind of a lot of my landscaping.

Alex Chambers:  One thing I was thinking about was like the Pink Turtlehead, having pretty much lost that in the recent decades. And how, in the first couple of decades of you being here, it was just this vast swath of amazing pink flowers. Not to sound callous, but it's one kind of plant, and it's one small spot. You know, why does it matter I guess?

Ellen Jacquart:  Yeah. Well I've got that question over the years. And I guess there are different ways of looking at it. If you're a spiritual person, these are amazing plant species that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, and have this intricate relationship with the pollinators and the wildlife that eat the fruits. And it's a part of a network. And by pulling out an individual species, it changes all of those connections. It's just like car, if you have a car and you pull off a windshield wiper, well it'll still drive just fine with one wiper. But then if you take a steering wheel, well that's a little difficult to make it go. And as you remove one piece after another, it just gets harder and harder for the system to actually function.

Ellen Jacquart:  Ultimately, from a selfish perspective, these systems support us. These systems are what keep the human race going, by cleaning our water, by providing oxygen. All of these different things that nature is doing for us. And if we're basically tearing it apart to the point where it no longer functions, we are harming ourselves. So, there's a lot of uses beyond simply the fact that all living beings, I believe, have the right to survive. That was a little excessive. I will step back from that. All species have a right to survive. The evolution that created those species, should be respected.

Ellen Jacquart:  And individuals are going to die, but when you start seeing whole populations blinking out, that's kind of the canary in the coal mine. You're seeing real impacts and reasons that that species can't survive, that should be a red flag to us about, what about human species? What's causing all of these extirpations of native plant species, and what does that mean for humans?

Ellen Jacquart:  So, here's the park office and back here across the road to trail two. You go down, there's a split off to see the old quarry, which is worth seeing, it's fun. A lot of history there. The limestone was loaded onto boats on the Creek.

Alex Chambers:  Oh wow! Cool.

Ellen Jacquart:  But if you go straight, what I recall kind of in this area, it's before you get close to the McCormick's Creek. If this is a low area with some down trees and it's just kind of wet and mushy, that's where the Pink Turtlehead is. So, that should be it right there, unless I'm misremembering.

Alex Chambers:  Oh thanks. Because you probably know this place well enough.

Ellen Jacquart:  I've got multiple maps, I always grab extra ones. Because sometimes it's like, wait, does that trail connect to that trail. So, I have extras.

Alex Chambers:  Cool. Alright, bye Ellen.

Alex Chambers:  That was episode three, of How to Survive the Future, the show about today from an imagined tomorrow. I produced the show with editing, tape gathering and all-around support from Allison Quantz, who also came up with our title. Our theme music is by Amy Oelsner and we have additional music from Ramón Monrás-Sender, Backward Collective and Last Ledges and Airport People. Thanks to Molly Wyler for additional editorial support. And special thanks to Ellen Jacquart, for imagining herself into the future. How to Survive the Future was produced in partnership with Indiana Humanities. The funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and with further support from the Writers Guild at Bloomington. You can listen to more episodes wherever you get your podcasts. Alright, it's time for a break. When we come back, we've got a bit of a music mystery. Stick around.

Alex Chambers:  Welcome back to Inner States, I'm Alex Chambers. We've been hearing music here at the WFIU offices, and we don't fully understand how it's getting here. You'd think we would control all the music, we're the radio station. But ever since we've come back to the office there's been this other music. Like a radio, but one we can't turn off. Like a radio but from on high. Maybe more like the voice of God.

Alex Chambers:  These bells have been the soundtrack to our work day. And while it's nice to be important enough to have a soundtrack, like most kinds of fame and fortune it does come with some complications.

Kayte Young:  Something that I think happens because you're hearing it in the background, it's part of your every day existence. But you're trying not to listen to it.

Alex Chambers:  This is my colleague, host of Earth Eats, Kayte Young.

Kayte Young:  You start kind of picking up a melody, is that that? Is it this? And then that's what makes it so distracting. Is because the arrangements for the carillon are so different than they would be on guitar or something [LAUGHS], that you're just struggling to figure out what it is that you're hearing. And that takes your mind away from your work.

Mark Chiller:  And another thing, if I can go all acoustic and music theory nerdy on you...

Alex Chambers:  Mark Chiller, host of Afterglow and Morning Edition in Bloomington.

Mark Chiller: has to do with the bells themselves. Because bells don't produce the same kind of tone as like a piano or a guitar would. And so you hear a lot of overtones with a bell. And a lot of those overtones ring very strongly. So when you hear a note, you're hearing a lot of overtones with that note. So, the note itself is not always clear what pitch it is, which can get really confusing. Because you're trying to follow this melody but you're hearing all these ringing overtones over it. And you're like, wait, where is the melody exactly? And then all of a sudden you're not working anymore. You are focusing on the acoustics of bells in the middle of your work day. Which, you know, is a nice distraction sometimes.

Alex Chambers:  So I said there was a bit of a mystery here. It's not about where the bells are coming from. There's a tower about 350 feet from our windows. It's the Wells Metz Carillon. It was moved here from across campus in 2019, and unveiled at the beginning of 2020. That's what we do know. What we don't know is who's playing it, or how it's played. How do they keep it going for hours and hours every weekday afternoon? We developed some theories.

Mark Chiller:  One that I thought up until today, was that it was all pre-recorded or like a player piano kind of thing. Where there was some of pre-programmed music that was going through the Carillon. Because we were hearing the same songs over and over and over again, each and every day. So, I thought maybe it's not a real live person, maybe it's kind of like a player piano, but it's a player carillon instead.

Alex Chambers:  That's what I thought too. I mean, honestly that's what I still think. My vote is still that it's a player piano, and there's a set number of songs and they're programmed. That's what I think.

Alex Chambers:  Kayte had a little more faith in musical humanity.

Kayte Young:  I think that it's a real person, and I think they're playing live. But what I don't know is are they in the structure of the Carillon with some mallets or something, which is what I want to think. But [LAUGHS] I don't actually believe that. I think that they're somewhere else, I think they're in some room in Jacobs and they're playing.

Alex Chambers:  That's the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, just across campus.

Kayte Young:  But I think that they're students and that they're practicing. And I think that because I often hear the same song more than once in a session. And it feels like they're kind of working on it. We were just listening to, America The Beautiful, and we heard quite a bit of hesitation between notes at times, where they're practicing. It's not pre-programmed.

Alex Chambers:  Okay. So, here's why I don't think it's someone practicing. Unless it's just one person practicing all the time, I feel like there would be more repertoire.

Mark Chiller:  Is there like a book when you go inside the structure of the Carillon and sit at the keyboard, or grab the mallets, or grab the ropes, or however you play it. Is there like a certain set of songs that you can only play? Which includes Under the Boardwalk, and Summertime, and Here Comes the Sun, and Vincent by Don McClean and all the other songs [LAUGHS] that we've heard hundreds of times it seems, at this point.

Alex Chambers:  Another colleague of ours, heard something even more radio worthy.

Kayte Young:  Violet said she heard some Britney Spears songs. It's a pretty wide range.

Alex Chambers:  Yeah. It's a pretty wide range which put a hole in my pre-programmed theory. And there were still more questions.

Mark Chiller:  I don't quite know how a Carillon works. Is it like a keyboard that you play, or is it someone with mallets? Is it like a belfry where they're pulling on big ropes to play bells or something like that? I don't actually know. I wish I did know, especially because the Carillon has become such an important, or at least an integral part of my life each and every day as I am in the office. I have so many questions about it and I really want to learn more about who programs it, who's playing it, how is it played, where is it played? These are all really good questions.

Alex Chambers:  Alright, well it's a mystery. I am going to try to dig into it and get you some answers.

Kayte Young:  Please.

Alex Chambers:  "Dig into it", I did. The dark corners of the Internet have a lot to say about Carillons. Here's what I was able to find out. But let's just keep this between us.

Alex Chambers:  Carillons evolved from single-belled instruments - I guess those would just be called bells. They evolved from bells. In the Middle Ages, a bell on a tower told the time of day, and it could also send messages like, fire, or we're being attacked, or there is a plague upon us, everyone stay inside and wait for Zoom meetings to be invented. The time of day thing is continued. If you live near a big church or a university, you might be used to hearing the bells ring out the hour. At first it was just that. They'd ring once for one o'clock, twice for two and so on. But pretty early on, people realized a heads-up would be nice, so you'd know to start counting. So they established what's called the four strike, and they added more bells so that four strike could be a melody. Now we get four strikes every quarter hour, building up to four, four strikes on the hour and then the count.

Alex Chambers:  This was all happening in a very particular part of the world. In the 16th century, the Netherlands in Belgium were like Silicon Valley in the late 1990s. Money was flowing in and everyone wanted a Carillon bigger than the next town's. And then the tables turned. After the French Revolution there was a copper shortage, and the sound of the bells was no longer their most appealing quality. People dismantled Carillons all over the place. And then grandfather clocks and pocket watches undercut Carillons monopoly on the time. At this point, the mid-19th century, things weren't looking so good for the blue whale of musical instruments. But things changed again in the 1880s, because by then, bell makers had developed ways to tune the bells more precisely. And that meant people want to have Carillon concerts. The first was in 1892 and it put the instrument on the map as a soloist, rather than just background sound.

Alex Chambers:  Although, I don't know, that distinction still seems a little fuzzy.

Lynnli Wang:  I often like to think of it that the Carillon is part of the soundscape of the city. So here at the Metz, we're part of IU soundscape along with the sirens and the birds and people walking around outside. And that's a really unique honor I think that Carillon performers have.

Alex Chambers:  The Carillon is a very public instrument. If you're in the vicinity and it's playing, you're going to hear it. At the same time, Carillon performers are pretty anonymous. It took me some work to find one. I had to try multiple search terms. But I did eventually track down the person I needed, Lynnli Wang.

Lynnli Wang:  I am the current Carillon Associate Instructor and also University Carillonist here at Indiana University, and I have the joy of ringing the Metz Carillon.

Alex Chambers:  We met up at the base of the Carillon, and before anything else, I had to get some answers to Kayte and Mark.

Mark Chiller:  I'm very curious.

Alex Chambers:  Well, here you go.

Alex Chambers:  Is there a person inside always, or is it like a player piano kind of thing, where it's somehow programmed?

Lynnli Wang:  Usually it's going to be a person, but we also have an automatic mechanism.

Alex Chambers:  When it's a real person, are they actually in the Carillon, or is it somehow controlled remotely?

Lynnli Wang:  You have to be up there, everything is mechanical.

Alex Chambers:  Is it a keyboard, is it mallets, are you pulling ropes?

Lynnli Wang:  We actually sit at a playing console, that has both a manual keyboard for your hands and also a pedal compass.

Alex Chambers:  Who's generally playing, is it students, is it always you?

Lynnli Wang:  Not always me. I do have minions and they are the students of the IU Carillon Studio.

Alex Chambers:  For a long time we're hearing things like, Under the Boardwalk, Here Comes the Sun, Don McLean's, Vincent, as well as seasoned like things. But I would think if it was students, they would be playing a wider variety and there wouldn't be quite as much repetition.

Lynnli Wang:  So you're probably hearing the same student come back again at the same time, practicing their set of repertoire, which is why you hear repeated music. Every student has, you know, their own little niche of music that they tend to like best.

Alex Chambers:  Who decides what gets played?

Lynnli Wang:  Well, at first, I assign some music just so that they can nail down the technique. But after that, the world is your oyster.

Mark Chiller:  Got you.

Kayte Young:  I'm amazed to hear that they're actually up in the tower.

Mark Chiller:  Yeah.

Alex Chambers:  They are actually up in the tower, yeah. It's a pretty cool space actually. I got to go up there. She took me up. The console looks like a piano and an organ got together and had Pinocchio as a baby.

Mark Chiller:  [LAUGHS]

Kayte Young:  I have to say that it does make me feel better.

Mark Chiller:  Yeah.

Kayte Young:  It makes me feel better knowing that someone, a human being, who's interested in Carillon, is learning to play this... somewhat rare instrument or something. And that that's who's choosing the music, and they're choosing it for their own exploration.

Mark Chiller:  But also for our enjoyment as well, you know, because it's such a public instrument. So there's nice about that, rather than just, oh we'll just put on something in the background, or let's press play on an automated thing. So there's something nice about that.

Kayte Young:  It's kind of like radio, except with the radio you can turn it off and on...

Mark Chiller:  Yeah. [LAUGHS]

Kayte Young: your leisure.

Alex Chambers:  And that of course is the crux of the situation. That was the thing I had really coddling me to talk about. And it was also the thing that I was most nervous about asking. So I put it off. I signed up for the tour instead.

Lynnli Wang:  I love doing tours, I love bringing people up into the Tower.

Alex Chambers:  There's a door at the base of the Carillon. Lynnli unlocked it and led me up a flight of stairs.

Lynnli Wang:  In we go. Just a little bit more. Before I let you in, I'm going to have you look up, because you can actually see our bells.

Alex Chambers:  Wow!

Lynnli Wang:  If you step carefully over here, so you don't go down our steps, you'll see our baby bells are actually right above the playing cabin. And if you look straight up, you'll actually see one of our largest bells.

Alex Chambers:  Wow!

Lynnli Wang:  Alright, and then I'll let you into our playing cabin.

Alex Chambers:  Okay.

Lynnli Wang:  Come on in.

Alex Chambers:  We were in a small climate-controlled room, with a bench and a playing console. Instead of keys, there were two rows of what looked like the ends of broomsticks. You play them by pushing down with your fists. There are also pedals for your feet. Each of the broomsticks and pedals, uses metal rods and levers to connect to a clapper way up in the bell. So, you press down on the broomstick - it's actually called the baton - and that makes the clapper hit the bell. Remember how Mark said, bells have a lot of overtones. They ring a main note, but lots of other notes come floating through too. That also explains why a lot of the music sounds just a little off. It's not just that it's weird to hear a Britney Spears song from the bell tower, it's also about those overtones.

Lynnli Wang:  For classically trained musicians, they often are very distracted sometimes by the music of the Carillon, like confused. And it's because the Carillon has a very strong minor third overtone. Whereas in Western classical music tradition, it's usually major third overtone. So, for example, if I play something major sounding, it almost feels like you've bitten into a lemon. It's got a little bit of a twinge. But if I play a minor third... it feels very comfortable, like you could slide right into the water and stay there for a little bit. It feels really nice.

Lynnli Wang:  Lynnli played some music for me. I'm going to play you a sample, and I want you to pay attention to all the extra noise. I was recording in the playing cabin, so you hear all the mechanics. The Carillon's made to be listened to outside. Also, you won't be able to hear this, but Lynnli was getting a workout.

Alex Chambers:  It's so physical.

Lynnli Wang:  [LAUGHS] It is definitely very physical. And it's because you're moving literally tons of heavy metal. It is not like a little violin we're playing up here, it's a really big instrument.

Alex Chambers:  Yeah. It's got 65 bells, four of those were added in the renovation, and they have quotes from famous women poets inscribed on them. The biggest bell is six feet wide, over six tons. And just to be clear, those batons and pedals move clappers that hit the bells. The bells themselves are stationary. So we got in the sense of the situation, but I still hadn't got an answer to the crucial question. It had been almost an hour. If I was going to do it, now was the time.

Alex Chambers:  It can be a little challenging. [LAUGHS]

Lynnli Wang:  The listening or the playing? [LAUGHS]

Alex Chambers:  The listening. I mean not when I'm like this. This was lovely, and it would've been nice to hear it outside where the bells were more clear. But when you're working, do you like listening to music when you're working?

Lynnli Wang:  I don't, but I know my brother is probably Spotify's best customer. And so he listens a lot.

Alex Chambers:  Right.

Lynnli Wang:  And I know people have differing opinions on the sort of music while they work. And it is tricky, I know what you're kind of getting at.

Alex Chambers:  Yeah, right.

Lynnli Wang:  It's like how do we balance making music, versus possibly making noise. And it's a really tricky question. All Carillons navigate this question differently. Here at IU, since the tower is so new and we started during Covid, I think we were given a lot of freedom in terms of ringing the bells. No one was really on campus and we also wanted to raise awareness, so more was better at the beginning.

Alex Chambers:  Lynnli loves the Carillon. She even wrote a children's book about all the bells on campus. It's about a squirrel looking for the Wells Metz Carillon. It's called, Is This My Home? Clearly, Lynnli wants the rest of us to love the Carillon too. And she recognizes that too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing.

Lynnli Wang:  I think as the Carillon enters into a new stage of life, where people know more about it, and we want the Carillon to continue to be a thing of joy for the campus. I think the next step is probably instilling weekly or daily ring times, where the Carillon only rings for a couple of hours. And also most of the practice is being done elsewhere.

Alex Chambers:  Lynnli left Indiana University the week after we talked. I don't think it had to do with me. She said something about finishing grad school. Anyway, since then, the Carillon's been much quieter. Her students must be taking a break too. I imagine they'll start playing again once the new semester starts. I'm feeling more okay with that. Lynnli's enthusiasm rubbed off a bit. And look, I understand, even if your job doesn't involve adjusting sound all day, like ours do in a radio station, you also might not want to listen to music as you work. That's legit. But I don't know, it was hard staying home for a year and a half. It's kind of nice to know there's a real person up there, ringing out the bells to say, "Hey, the pandemic's still on, but you can come outside. Be around other people again."

Alex Chambers:  You've been listening to Inner States from WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana. If you have a story for us, or you've got some sound we should hear, let us know at or on Twitter @innerstatespod. Speaking of Found Sound, we've got you a quick moment of slow radio coming up. But first, the credits. Inner States is produced and edited by me, Alex Chambers, with support from Eoban Binder, Aaron Cain, Mark Chilla, Michael Paskash, Payton Whaley and Kayte Young. Our Executive Producer is John Bailey. Our Theme song is by Amy Oelsner and Justin Vollmar. We have additional music from the artists at Universal Production Music, and Airport People.

Alex Chambers:  Alright. Time to go listen to something.

Alex Chambers:  You've been listening to rain on a hot summer evening. Until next week, I'm Alex Chambers. Thanks for listening.

How to Survive the Future Ep3: McCormick's Creek State Park

How to Survive the Future Episode 3: McCormick's Creek State Park (Ileana Haberman)

How to Survive the Future Episode 3: McCormick’s Creek State Park

If you’ve been paying attention to this space, you might have heard by now that How to Survive the Future is a podcast I made with Allison Quantz where we talk to people in the future about what things were like today, and how they’ve changed. One of the conversations I had was with botanist Ellen Jacquart, around the year 2045, at McCormick’s Creek State Park.

A couple weeks after I talked with her, I went to Green’s Bluff Nature Preserve in Owen County, Indiana, to see the vestigial hemlocks. According to Ellen, they’ll die off in the next couple decades, due to a combination of climate change and hemlock woolly adelgid, an aphid-like invasive insect that’s making its way toward them now. It’s a beautiful spot. You can sit overlooking a stream while the kids you’ve brought with you play on the edges or wade in and the hemlocks growing up the cliff face on the opposite side breathe the cool air.

This week on Inner States, How to Survive the Future Episode 3: McCormick’s Creek State Park. It feels like cool air too. Even though the day Ellen and I walked together through the park was humid, we were in the shade of the forest, and maybe spring ephemerals don’t actually change the temperature, but they make you feel cooler anyway. There’s some bad news there too, but I think it’s another reminder that there are surprises in the natural world now, and there will be then, too.

There are five episodes of How to Survive the Future. You can stream them all here, or listen in your favorite podcast app.

Keep Calm and Carillon

The Wells Metz Carillon at night

In case that’s not enough (it isn’t), it’s also time to reveal the answers to a mystery we’d been experiencing at the radio station. There was music coming in through our windows. We weren’t sure how it was getting there. Oh, we knew it was the bell tower. But who was playing it? How was it played? Was that really a Britney Spears song ringing out across campus? Answers to those questions and more (and less, because I guess I didn’t confirm the Britney Spears song), on the podcast.


Our theme song is by Amy Oelsner and Justin Vollmar. Additional music from airport people, and the artists at Universal Production Music.

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