It is a recording! See the speakers in the top window of the bell tower (click on the picture itself to see it closer). Apparently, the bells are still hanging there, but according to my source (a San Diego museum employee), the bells are over 100 years old and are therefore too old to be rung anymore.
Carmen’s Rant on The Silent Hanging of Instruments on Walls and in Other Places
Bells should be rung until they crack and splinter! Only when they are reduced to shards of shapeless metal should they be left to hang silent on their ropes!! Only then should we use them only as a reminder, a lesson, a testament to their long, well-served life as bells. Why do we not let our instruments age gracefully? Why do we replace them with attempts at artificial recordings played by computers? It may be a shock when you realize they are getting old, that they may need more care and attention, but they should never be hung on the wall to rest as silent, useless objects. Not while they still have sound in their beings!! We should use their wrinkles and cracks as part of their sound. Repairs should of course be made – it heals them and extends their life. But they are never perfect – embrace the sonic scars of your old violins and pianos! Ring the old bells! Let the sounds of a century past carry through and become part of my present and our future!
All ye who would condemn my sentiments as disrespectful, irresponsible and harmful to our musical history, come forth and say so! For I shall have the last laugh on this topic – your laugh will be hanging preserved and silent on the wall of a museum!!!
Return to the San Diego entry.