views updated May 11 2018

1. This popular and ubiquitous mus. instr. varies in weight from over 100 tons to a fraction of an ounce. For public bells the most usual bell metal is a bronze of 13 parts copper to 4 parts tin: the shape and proportions are the result of very intricate calculations in order to secure good tone and tuning—the latter not only of the strike note with its attendant overtones but also of the deep tone which persists after these have died away, i.e. the hum note, which should be an octave below the strike note.

There are 2 chief ways of sounding ordinary church bells, chiming (the clapper moved mechanically just sufficiently to strike the side of the bell) and ringing (in which the bell is swung round full circle).

A ring of church bells may consist of any number from 5 to 12. With 5 bells 120 variations of order, or changes, are possible; with 12 bells they number almost 480 millions. Change ringing by hand-ropes, a characteristic British practice, is a still popular hobby. Various standard changes are described by various traditional names, as ‘Grandsire Triples’, ‘Bob Major’, or ‘Oxford Treble Bob’. Dorothy L. Sayers's detective story The Nine Tailors (1934) hinges on bell-ringing most ingeniously.

On the continent of Europe ‘rings’ are unknown but the carillon is there an ancient institution—esp. in Belgium and Holland. This consists of a series of anything up to 77 bells played by skilful artists from a manual and pedal console somewhat similar to that of an organ but more cumbrous. Tunes and simple accompanying harmonies can be perf. At the hours and their halves and quarters the carillon is set in operation by clockwork. There are now some carillons in Britain and in the USA.

2. Tubular bells are often used in the orch. and are also now used (electrically operated from a kbd.) in church towers. They are cylindrical metal tubes of different lengths, suspended in a frame and played by being struck with a hammer.

3. Handbells are small bells with handles: they are arr. in pitch order on a table and played by several performers, each in charge of several bells. They are used for the practice of change ringers and also as an entertainment.

4. A term to describe the open end of a wind instr. from which the sound comes.