She rings many bells and makes them sing

from Times of India featuring Vera Lipen:

Vera-1_bells_1000CHENNAI : She was born in Belarus, a war-torn country bordering Russia, but its troubled past never disturbed her. Since childhood, she perceived the world mostly through sounds, the focus of her attention on listening and trying to understand the connection between sounds and the meaning they carry. Today, Vera Lipen is a known Russian singing bells player in the world.

The name ‘Russian singing bells’ is used for the instrument invented 30 years ago by Russian bell-master Alexander Zhikharev. It is a set of plate bells — rectangular shaped brass plates that have a very special tuning which makes them distinct from any other bell-type instrument. “I am very grateful to get the chance to work with this instrument. I did learn a bit of classical guitar in my teens, but I found that in the classical system it is very difficult to come to a stage where one can express one’s deep emotion through music – one is mainly taught to repeat the existing musical patterns. The Russian singing bells helped me to find another door into the world of musical harmony,” said Lipen, who will be performing at Dakshin Chitra on Monday.

Bells play a major role in the cultural life of people. The sound of the bells in all cultures is revered as sacred. Lipen performs solo and also experiments with other musicians. She has been holding open interactive “Tuning to Harmony” sessions at Auroville for the past nine years. “Many musicians from different countries played with me – on their own instruments and also together with me on the bells. I liked playing with the Indian flute – bansuri and Turkish flute,” said Lipen, who introduced the bells to India.

It was while searching for something representative of the Russian culture for a project in Auroville that Lipen got to know about Russian singing bells, an instrument which was quite unique even in Russia. “When I first heard the sounds of this instrument, I was stunned. It was such a deep experience of harmony and love that I wanted to bring them to Auroville, to share it with the people from all over the world that come here,” she said. When this instrument actually came to Auroville in 2007, Lipen started developing her own style of playing. She has been in touch with this instrument for 10 years now, giving performances over eight years.

The percussion instruments of the bell-type are in many shapes, said Lipen. So far the tulip-shaped bell due to its size and weight has been considered a king, a lion of the percussion instruments and perhaps of all the musical instruments.

“But it is very hard to tune it to perfection. While in the case of the Russian singing bells, the bell-master can very consciously tune the instrument to a very fine degree,” she said.

Lipen has performed in the US, Turkey, Switzerland, Netherlands. “I feel it is going to be a different experience to play for a predominantly Indian audience. I would like to invite those visiting Auroville to my ‘Tuning to Harmony’ sessions where they would have a chance not only to listen to the Russian singing bells but also to play them and feel united through sound,” said Lipen

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