Ding Ding Ding went the bell
March 22, 2006 2:40 PM   Subscribe

A carillon is a musical instrument that is played by a performer striking a keyboard which causes clappers to strike bells. The bells are the stars of the instrument: they are constructed in foundries, made of bronze, and tuned by shaving the insides of the bells until a perfect harmonic sequence is attained. The largest bell, weighing in at over six and a half tons, is located at the Kirk-In-The-Hills Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Here are some samples of what one sounds like. Music performed on the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon in Chicago.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The largest bell, weighing in at over six and a half tons, is located at the Kirk-In-The-Hills Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Yet the first link has this:
The Riverside Church in New York City has one of the largest carillons in the world. It has 72 bells and can play five full octaves. Its largest, lowest-pitched bell (which plays the note C) weighs 20 tons, is over ten feet in diameter, and is the largest tuned bell in the world.

conspiracy..?? Are you trying to hide the truth from us..?
posted by WhipSmart at 2:55 PM on March 22, 2006

Terrific post, DFT, but a tiny cavil: your link includes a piece entitled "The Swinging Peal." One begs to differ.
P.S. Isn't it about time for a Dorothy Sayers post?
posted by rob511 at 2:57 PM on March 22, 2006

Well, I meant the largest bell in Bloomfield Hills obviously. :-)
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 3:04 PM on March 22, 2006

The Kirk carillon has 77 bells and is the largest in number of bells.

I used to live near it. Very cool church. I've attended several functions there.
posted by disclaimer at 3:07 PM on March 22, 2006

Albany, NY's City Hall has one, in addition to the more postmodern Maas-Rowe
Symphonic Carillion at the city's University campus.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:11 PM on March 22, 2006

I've always liked carillons... but it's the fake ones [soul-destroying MIDI music] I can't stand. Some idiots installed an electric carillon in a courthouse in the neighborhood where I grew up. Ruined the neighborhood for me.
posted by brundlefly at 3:11 PM on March 22, 2006

I went to the U of C, where the Rockefeller carillon is. And believe you me, I got so fucking sick of carillon music...
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:12 PM on March 22, 2006

The National Carillon sits on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra.

The first time I heard it, I honestly thought the Earth had been rent apart and the music they play in Hell was seeping forth to our realm. "Tuneless cacophony" fails to capture the true horror of the aural diarrhoea this thing generated. Unfortunately, there is a schedule of regular recitals.

The Carillon was apparently a gift from the people of Britain. I can only assume it was meant to be a joke.
posted by bright cold day at 3:16 PM on March 22, 2006

nebulawindphone, I lived in (alas poor departed) Woodward. Change ringing on the carrilon right next door every Sunday morning, plus the occasional fractal/mathematical piece... talk about tintinnabulation!
posted by nonane at 3:20 PM on March 22, 2006

I once played "Crazy Train" (kind of slowly) on a carillon. It made me really happy.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:35 PM on March 22, 2006

I once heard the Star Wars theme coming from our school's carillon. It made me really sad.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:29 PM on March 22, 2006

McGraw Tower mp3s.
posted by xowie at 4:34 PM on March 22, 2006

My mother likes to tell the story of when some of her classmates at Webster College (now Webster University) got drunk, and snuck into the carillon.

Woke up the entire campus, and half of Webster Groves, they did. Too several sleep nuns to bring the impromptu concert to a close.

(yes, brundlefly, fake carillon music is the Tombstone Pizza of music.)
posted by QIbHom at 5:42 PM on March 22, 2006

I'm familiar with --

The War Memorial Carillon -- Richmond, VA.

Christ Church Carillon -- Charlottesville, VA.

Christ Church Carillon -- Bloomfield Hills, MI

Check out: World List of Carillons.
posted by ericb at 6:21 PM on March 22, 2006

Speaking of fake carillons, here's what's installed at the Alberta Legislature (PDF link) in Edmonton (this bit's on the second page):

The carillon, which is similar to an electric organ, was installed in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s Centennial. The
sound produced by striking one of the 391 metal rods is amplified one million times and broadcast from the
top of the dome. The carillon can play pre-recorded music from holes in strips of paper like a player piano, or
be played from the keyboard by a musician.

At least it's not MIDI. Years ago I lived in an apartment building next door to the legislature grounds. They'd use the 'carillon' to chime the hours during the day, and play longer pieces on Sunday afternoons. I always wondered whether it was real or recorded, since the sound had an 'amplified' quality to it (I could hear a hiss or buzz during the quiet parts - they had the volume cranked right up).
posted by hangashore at 7:07 PM on March 22, 2006

Let's not forget UC Berkeley's Campanile.
posted by pmbuko at 7:51 PM on March 22, 2006

Thanks, DFT!
posted by shoepal at 8:20 PM on March 22, 2006

Cast In Bronze is the only traveling carillon in the United States (other countries listed here.) It has 35 cast bronze bells mounted on a custom trailer weighing 8,370 lbs., and measuring 8' wide x 10' tall x 21' long. The owner and masked carilloneur is Frank DellaPenna.

I heard—or rather, felt— this outdoors at a Renaissance Faire a few years ago. Very loud, but literally very impressive when standing next to it (for a short period of time if you value your eardrums). All you could think of were the sounds of the bells (samples here.)
posted by cenoxo at 9:05 PM on March 22, 2006

And speaking of carilloneurs...

posted by cenoxo at 9:40 PM on March 22, 2006

I once turned pages for the carilloneer at Riverside Church. I was 16 at the time. I loved going up the tower to be amongst the bells when he played.

The sound of a heavy carillon isn't something one wants in large quantities. But in occasional doses, it is lovely.
posted by Goofyy at 10:41 PM on March 22, 2006

I used to work for the University of Michigan Grounds Department, and my maintenance area was directly below the Burton Memorial Tower. Every day after eating my lunch I would stretch out in the summer grass and fall asleep to the sound of the bells of the Charles Baird Carillon (tied for fourth heaviest carillon in the world, as if you didn't already know). Needless to say, i have a warm spot in my heart for those oddly-tuned clanging bells.

Thanks for the MP3 links in this post. Now, off for my nap.
posted by Overzealous at 5:44 AM on March 23, 2006

The largest bell in my university carillion weighs about 1.5 tons. Here's a page with a photo of the bells.

The carillion was recently (1996) renovated after falling silent due to mechanical errors for nearly 10 years. Now the bells go off at regular intervals during the day, using timed electronic playing (but using the actual bells, not using a synthesizer). On special occasions carillioners come in and play.

More info on the bells are found here at the official carillion site, and details of the restoration are here. All you ever wanted to know about the tower (including mp3 files of the carillion) are here.

(Sorry, Overzealous - not the fight song you probably wanted to hear the bells chime out.)
posted by caution live frogs at 6:59 AM on March 23, 2006

Fight in isle 50274! Spartans vs. Wolverines!


Thanks for the memory, Frogs & Overzealous.
posted by Goofyy at 8:19 AM on March 23, 2006

On the fight song theme, I remember the National Cathedral's carillon playing "Hail to the Redskins" when the 'Skins won the Super bowl back in the 1980s when they were good.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:19 PM on March 23, 2006

What? You mean your high school didn't have one? Mine did.
posted by firehead at 5:55 PM on March 23, 2006

Live Frogs may be joking, but I think the MSU fight song is a better tune than Hail to the Victors.

In 1997 Details Magazine asked James Caan what song a "real man" should sing in the shower and he said the MSU fight song.

He was right.

Link Here
posted by Overzealous at 3:37 PM on March 30, 2006

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