The latest generation of the Masters Bell Ringers Rubagotti decided to mix sacred and Hi-Tech.

The so great journalist Gianluca Nicoletti describes with a beautiful reportage on Wired.Read More


March 1 2010 Gianluca Nicoletti- WIRED

In Chiari, near Brescia you are writing phase 2.0 for whom the bell tolls. Carlo Rubagotti is the founder of a technology family specialized in equipment for bell ringers. For fifty years he groped bells to test the voice and health status. As a dentist with the molars of a patient a little 'âgé the peels and glossy, the file and regrinds. Finally, to bring them back to vaporize in the blast sweet with its secret blend made from peanut shells.

Rubagotti senior since he was six years of worries sonorize cathedrals, churches and chapels. He started as an apprentice to the historic foundry Filippi Chiari, in the years' 60 was the first to electrify bells in Italy attacking a motor 11 the bells of the cathedral of his city, the one protected by the Saints Faustino and Jovita. Today is the masterpiece of the family as a upgrade that allows remote control of scampanamenti directly from BlackBerry's provost.

Cyber ​​virtual bell ringer is a 'exclusive Rubagotti Family, singular crucible of devotees and geeks working in a holy chain that starts from hammering on the anvil and is sublimated by touching a touchscreen. Three years ago the company passed into the hands of two sons James and Luke, since the bands also among their priests to conquer, bell towers to climb, bells and clocks disassemble adjust to change. The two boys, however, are a step forward, apply every possible idea that comes from the world of electronics and computers to the ancient craft they inherited the secrets. The two junior Rubagotti are convinced that the future of their art is the shift from muscle to wireless. I am also sure that this epochal change in the field of bell ringers can not go for a simple upgrade technology.

Who, like them, to the priests if they have chewed many, knows that you have to let them talk a lot, before entering on the proposal to adapt them to the wonders of the bell system RCTouchBell, an emulator electronic bell that the two children have invented together with his friend Giorgio Campiotti, a technology enthusiast who for ten years has made an effort to come up with the two boys sacred gadgets. A partnership that has dramatically rejuvenate the family business with bold and innovative solutions that disrupt any tradition of devotional synesthesia.

Thus it was born their Hal9000 of sagrestani: RCTouchBell includes a control center of a nervous system that, according to requirements, can be more or less complex. For our boys from the church "treat" is an organization that needs help to expand "sensory". The first task of their operations center is the traditional control of the movement of the bells and hammers. Who does not have blood art bell, does not know how complex the game between muscle strength and balance. A master bell ringer could be giving concerts simple hints to his assistants; those, attached to the ropes like a bungee jumping, flying and descending waft from a few tons of bronze stealing gravity to their body and transformed flesh vibrating sound powerful and destructive.

Do not just stick an electric motor to the frame of a bell and get it going. A bell tower not only serves as a support stone for bells, but it is more a central scanning time, an antenna that transmits waves resonating each announcement of life, of death, of triumph or disaster. Chatting with Rubagotti you learn that even the bell tower can become a cannon to shoot anathema to demons. "Once I was sent by a priest to the top to give the holy oil to the bells," says one of the children. "I had to use them for an exorcism. It is a formula very secret that few know. Everything is based on ringing the bell oriented to the east than the west. "

Not to betray the slightest sense of sacred oscillation, the bells moved by the masters Rubagotti have a system of counterweights and clutches are able to reproduce the swing that only a human being attached to ropes produces. The chemistry between flesh and bronze, which is the soul of the sound of a bell, is cloned into an algorithm that is able to establish that moment of stillness before the downturn swing. A moment that is never the same, never at the same point of the excursion, but changes gradually that the bell is left tame creators have caught in the snare and wants to tame it. In short, the Rubagotti swear that no ear could ever understand the trade the difference between the natural and the artificial when he hears their robot scampanatore.

The issue is not only related to satisfaction trivially aesthetic. The regulations that govern "The use of the Bells Consecrate or Blessed" is established in the Code of Canon Law canon 1169 and it is so important that the Congregation of the Council, with a decree of 1931, remembered the parish priests, ordering them to take the ' authorization of the Bishop whenever "serious and urgent reasons determine the need to ring the bells for purposes not closely related to divine worship."

I realized that with the bells do not play when they showed me the computerized control panel in the basilica of Chiari. I could not resist to handle a little 'interface: it was enough to touch the bells and tens of meters higher were beginning to sound a long blast at my command. Instantly the young vice provost Don Fabio, even with the long tunic, is rushed to the sacristan with the order to bring me ... "it does not do ... It is absolutely forbidden to sound" For usus mere profanos "."

Even the most secular observers can not think that the liturgy is only a superstructure allegorical of religion: ritual canons follows very precise because the correspondence between the various levels of participation are actually connected to each other and do not leave to chance. It applies to the orientation of the places of worship, to the geometry of the buildings, the materials used, to the iconographic references. They exist in the Catholic religion also essential rules governing the perfect synesthesia of the holy places. There is no doubt that the technology that supports the definition of sacred space must necessarily be updated, no coincidence that those Rubagotti technically evolved were officially appointed by the Vatican to put the bells in the early church not illegal in Albania built post-communist. Where you started from scratch might as well take the most advanced product that offered the market, provided that innovation was going through knowledgeable people who get their hands to the sound of a church is not the same as doing it in a nightclub.

For the same reason the adaptation and innovation of artificial lighting must also be designed by specialists in tandem with liturgists. In short, in every point of passage from the human to the sacred, it intervenes if an "artificial" needs to be under the control of whoever administers the gateway. The CEI has long been on this line, so that in a note of the liturgical '96 states that artificial lighting of the churches must take first into account the needs of the liturgical celebration, avoiding "excessive brightness" that could transform places of worship in supermarkets.

The Rubagotti are aware of handling not only pieces of metal. Each bell is consecrated and blessed according to the ritual that dates back to the eighth century and that allocates a permanent place of worship. They are proof that among the people of the church bias technology "against nature" is fading in a perspective of comfort and efficiency of the liturgical functions. No more cold churches lit only by candle flames, no more plants spread crackling, confessional that look like instruments of torture.

Workshop Chiari coexists the archaic equipment of traditional bell-ringer with the addition of an oestrus cyber demon crazy. Rubagotti The factory is a small laboratory for electrical supported the forge used to restore the soul to those clappers of iron of the seventeenth century. They weigh as much as a child, but slamming on the bells that are attached via a wireless system that allows the transportation of these mastodons suspended in the clouds through the fingertips on your handheld.

It is a jumble of pins and bearings that allow a handful of black sludge him who touches them, but piled together in boxes of circuit boards, microchips, motherboards and processors thanks to which, you do not know how and why, when junior puts Rubagotti iPhone a hand bell placed on a counter attack to move test like the automaton of Forbidden Planet, "Behold, the pastor from his handheld can command, wherever he is, every bell of every church under its jurisdiction. You do not know how useful these parts. With the crisis of vocations a priest must handle three or four parishes alone and as would otherwise? ". This means, however, the possibility of creating a "liturgical schedule" that checks every hour, function, special occasion a ringing, a chime, with increasing complexity that is capable of producing even real concerts.

In the Cathedral of the bell Chiari youngest is struggling with the elderly that is threatened by the digital divide. I can understand this until the early '60 when Rubagotti father gave the first soul motorized those bells, the bell ringer lived there under, in a niche where he spent a day and night of the liturgical needs and the bottle of wine. Now the apartment of the sacristan is invaded by powerful motors driven by a processor that does make them the same service, the same human oscillations, of that old drunk.

Always with the same control unit can manage the diffusion plants both inside and outside: the bell of the altar boy until the cane most powerful organ. To control every nuance habitat devotional is designed 12 inch touchscreen interface: "The colors are not random, and neither is the maximum number of buttons on screen and their arrangement. Our goal was to ensure maximum ease of use even in an elderly priest ". Besides being able to manage the entire home automation parish, from the lights to the air conditioning, watches - and even a robotic owl "bollard" of birds by harassing scacazzamento - the RCTouchBell was recently able to provide a service of "sound augmented reality" for churches who have not discharged more bell or can not afford real bells. The problem of inadequate sound aura penalizes the already horrifying modern churches: "In the past we have always relied on audio broadcasting of bells recorded, even with the trumpets from the county fair. Quality audio and sound spectrum are very limited, "he says Giorgio Campiotti.

"I'm a bass player, I play in a band for years and I can define quite demanding in terms of sound. I studied the acoustic spectrum and the sound reflections of a real system of bells and, with a spectrum analyzer, I managed to trace the range of sound that should have an audio speaker to be able to "deceive" a listener. Once they have presented the villagers to ask where were the bells. "

After months of testing, the techno bell ringers are thus able to develop a sound system to be mounted on top of the bell tower, to allow playback of audio bells pre recorded or, if desired, also of mp3 any other type of music. The plant can reach a range from 20 20 Hz-kHz that reaches to deceive listen real bells. Campiotti and partners to make the spell more likely they started filming audio quality with professional equipment, pilfering the sound of the bell towers of Italy. Now that you have a nice library of tolling bells virtual championships to animate their customers, they are considering to put a little 'online. It is not impossible that, if the project goes ahead, between priests and sacristans not come into use file sharing of sacred hit compilations of bells.