Ringing in the Olympics at Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London
Did you miss the start of the Olympics? No, you say; the opening ceremonies are tonight, so I haven’t missed anything yet. Well you must not be a soccer fan. Both the men’s and women’s tournaments began play on Wednesday. The US women held off France with a late surge to win their opener; the US men cheered them on. (They did not qualify for the Olympics.) And musically, the Olympics kicked off (sorry) this morning at 8:12am with the country-wide performance of Work No. 1197 by the controversial British artist, and musicians, Martin Creed. The work’s subtitle says it all: “All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes.” The work was commissioned by the Olympic committee, and this morning, for three minutes, Big Ben rang out, and so did local church bells, kids with bicycle bells, etc.
But yes, the official opening is tonight. And you will no doubt be hearing the Official Song of the Olympics, “Survival,” by the British goth-rockers Muse. But there’s oh so much more. These Olympic Games have an official Music Director – actually, two of them. The electronic dance music duo known as Underworld will be putting the sonic finishing touches on much of what you see and hear tonight. They’re not so well known here in the States, but their song “Born Slippy” was a huge pub hit in England in the 90s.
And finally, the Olympics of 2012 remember the Olympics of 1924, and the inspirational tale of the British athletes who did so well that year. You may know the story – it’s the subject of the film Chariots of Fire, which has just been re-released in a new digital version . The famous theme music, by Greek electronic composer Vangelis, has been used in a lot of the promotion of the upcoming – oops, I mean ongoing – Olympics. Expect to hear a fair amount of it during the next two weeks.
Just don’t expect to hear a lot from me. I’m off to my annual pilgrimage to that shrine of thoroughbred horse racing, Saratoga Springs. Assuming I don’t do something crazy like hitting the Pick-6 (where you pick the winners of 6 consecutive races) for half a million dollars, I’ll be back in two weeks.
John Schaefer has hosted Soundcheck since the show’s inception in 2002. He has also hosted and produced WNYC’s radio series New Sounds since 1982 (“The No. 1 radio show for the Global Village” – Billboard) and the New Sounds Live concert series since 1986.