WASHINGTON – When a historic earthquake rocked the D.C. area last August, many a nerve was rattled. But did that 6.0 quake also create music?
After the ground stopped shaking on August 23, people reported hearing bells ringing at the National Cathedral.
“I thought, ‘Well, that’s preposterous,'” says Ed Nassor, who’s played the 64-ton carillon in the cathedral’s central tower since 1990. “Because the carillon bells hang, they never swing, and the clappers inside only move in one direction, back and forth. So, that couldn’t have been these bells.”
Upon inspecting the bells and the organ-like keyboard they’re attached to, Nassor says he “saw that the tracking wires leading from the keys to the clappers had actually pulled out of the keyboard.”
“The clappers must have been swinging violently to and fro, striking the bells,” thus creating an earthquake song, he says.
Engineers told Nassor that rather than being a liability, the bulk and weight of the carillon had actually helped stabilize the cathedral’s central tower during the quake.
And while most folks would not care to be 160-feet up in a tower during an earthquake, Nassor wishes he had been there.
“Because, as the carillonneur, I sort of feel I’m the curator of the bells, and I need to see what’s going on” he says. “So rather than sitting around wondering, I kind of wish I was here to be an eyewitness.”