Thu. Nov 21st, 2019

Tune the clocktower’s eerie tune

By Ben Goldberger —

There are some things that most universities share. Libraries, fight songs and alma maters are all parts of a college’s identity. The University of Louisville is unique in the sense that we have two different Alma Maters: the official tune and the one the clocktower plays at noon every day. 

You don’t have to be a music major to know that this version of the alma mater is extremely out of tune. The clocktower’s eerie rendition is practically in a different key than the official composition. 

The university should act with a sense of urgency to resolve this issue since the clocktower is one of U of L’s most recognizable structures, also because this could be a problem for students’ mental health. 

Studies have shown that music in minor modes can enhance feelings of sadness, anxiety and depression. Professors Curtis and Bharucha conducted a study that supports this. They concluded that the minor third interval, the space between two notes that is a half step smaller than a major interval, is manifested in vocal patterns that represent sadness.

This is important because the minor third is the note most responsible for making the chord minor instead of major. A chord consists of the first, third and fifth notes of the scale, and the third is the only note in this chord that changes in a minor chord. 

Another reason that minor keys are so upsetting is that our brains are not expecting them.

“Our brains expect to hear major tonic chords in the music we listen to, so when a minor tonic or note is played, our brains are left unsettled and confused,” says freshman music therapy major Emily Carter.

Even if students do not pay full attention to the tune from the clocktower, our brains are listening to the notes subconsciously. The retail industry understands this the most, picking background music specifically tailored to make their customers buy more. 

In 1980, Ronald Milliman conducted an experiment that found when markets played slower songs in the background, customers shopped slower and bought more as a result.

As explained by Thinkgrowth.org, “In Milliman’s supermarket study, he found that, on average, sales volume was 38% higher on days when stores played slow background music.”

Most customers do not pay any attention to the music playing over the intercom at stores, yet the tunes still have an effect on their actions. That is the same with the eerily out of tune alma mater that the clocktower plays.

On top of this, colder weather is rolling into the Ville. Cold temperatures cause metals to shrink slightly, causing instruments made out of metal to dip even more in pitch. 

“When it is cold the kinetic energy decreases, so the atoms take up less space and the material contracts,” according to Physlink.com.

U of L should use this as motivation to tune the clock tower even faster because it is only going to get colder for the next few months. With winter break coming in a month, that would be a perfect time for the university to retune the bells, providing a nice surprise for their students to ring in the new semester.

Graphic by Shayla Kerr// The Louisville Cardinal

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