Geisel Carillon Takes Song Requests to Celebrate 50th Anniversary

The campus carillon that sits atop Geisel Library can play more than just the automated chime that marks each hour of the day — in fact, in celebration of UCSD’s 50th anniversary, it will play almost any song.

Because UCSD has no official song, Arts Library outreach coordinator Scott Paulson said the requests are the only way to get songs to play on the bell instrument, which is housed in a bell tower.

“I hope lots of people send song requests,” Paulson said. “These personal requests, played in such a public way, are a great way for someone to celebrate the 50th [anniversary].”

According to university spokesperson Dolores Davies, short concerts will often occur at noon on weekdays for the rest of the academic year.

For the anniversary celebration, the university commissioned over 70 composers — music students, professionals and community members — to create new chimes for the carillon for $125 each.

Paulson, who is also a 1984 alumnus, has been the official university carillon player since 1994. Before him, no one played the carillon and it was only used for its hourly chimes.

Paulson has always taken requests as to what to play on the carillon, which has no operating costs.

“[I’ve been getting requests for] lots of 80s songs for some reason,” Paulson said. “Most recently, ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over,’ [by] Crowded House.”

Paulson has a diverse song repertoire, which according to Davies, can range from songs by Salt n’ Pepa to The Ramones.

Paulson said, while sometimes he does not know the song, he may contact the requestor and ask them hum some bars of the song.

Paulson said that he will perform any song that will not be ruined by the sound of the carillon, often suggesting alternate songs that will sound better in that format.

“The thing about bells and chimes is that there is no such thing as a short note,” Paulson said in an e-mail. “Every note is a long, long tone and those notes can overlap and interfere with each other, so we’ll see what I can do to make your song request sound familiar and flattering.”

Paulson said he’s accepting requests because it’s important to have student and community involvement in the selection of the songs.

“As an alumnus and a staff member, it’s important to me to create opportunities like this,” Paulson said. “My job title at the library is outreach coordinator, and this kind of outreach truly reaches out to people.”

The hourly chime is called “The Westminster Quarters,” a 1793 melody that originates in the Church of St. Mary the Great in Cambridge, England.

The hourly chime is automatically played by the carillon and then amplified through a speaker system located outside the library. It is not pre-recorded, but Paulson plays other songs live.

The carillon was donated to the school in 1989 by Joe Rubinger, who was in a retiree learning program at the university in the 80s and noticed the school did not have any chimes.

Paulson has always and will always accept requests. They can be sent to him via e-mail at [email protected]