restored original transposition Baird Carillon Ann Arbor

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restored original transposition Baird Carillon Ann Arbor

Postby Gideon Bodden on Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:59 pm

I think it is great that the original transposition -transposing down a major third- of the Carillon at Burton Tower at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has been restored during the recent restoration of the instrument!
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Re: restored original transposition Baird Carillon Ann Arbor

Postby JohnGouwens on Wed Dec 26, 2012 3:41 am

Why, Gideon? So much repertoire is written with concert pitch (or higher) instruments in mind, and when taken to a low-pitched instrument, particularly one with such rich, heavy bass bells (that is not a complaint), much music needs to be thinned out considerably. (I think immediately of much or your repertoire as an example, such as pieces by Kors Monster.) Having the lowest note be an E-flat at the keyboard would admittedly have been a great oddity, and I recognize that moving it to a major third transposition amounted to reinstating the original situation, but when moved up to a whole-tone low transposition (C=Bb), that seemed a perfectly reasonable compromise. I would argue that moving it back to C=Ab will actually reduce the amount of music that will work well on it, and for what musical gains?
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Re: restored original transposition Baird Carillon Ann Arbor

Postby Gideon Bodden on Wed Dec 26, 2012 5:44 pm

It is simple: the instrument was meant to be in that low transposition, it was meant to sound as deep as that. The question is not if that makes it easy or not for a performer today, it is the way it is. A good player will adapt his playing to it, and will be able to perform a large repertoire on it. It is the player who should adapt to the instrument, it is ridiculous that such a great, grand, monumental carillon is adapted to players. Especially to mediocre players! By the way, don't carillon performers have learned to transpose compositions? They do? They are too lazy to do it? That makes sense!
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Re: restored original transposition Baird Carillon Ann Arbor

Postby JohnGouwens on Thu Dec 27, 2012 7:17 pm

Well, Gideon, the decision to install the carillon transposing down a major third is based on the relatively arbitrary factor of how much the institution was willing to spend in bell metal, perhaps influenced also by the desire to match the transposition of the old Mechelen carillon. The carillon is first and foremost a musical instrument. In 1936, when the Baird carillon was installed, the only published carillon music was that issued by the Mechelen school and those few pieces G. Schirmer was publishing from the Curtis Institute composers (Samuel Barber, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Nino Rota). All of those were composed with major-third carillons close at hand, but how much is that music played today? Do we decide the transposition of a carillon in the US based on how it handles the music of Jef Denyn or Jef van Hoof? (Incidentally, it's well worth getting to know van Hoof's orchestral music, which is actually quite impressive.) Ronald Barnes wrote some pieces for the Kansas carillon (pitched in B), as did Roy Johnson, Gary White, and John Pozdro. Some of that repertoire (thinking in particular of the Sonata of Johnson) fares better in B or C than it does on a carillon pitched a major third low. (I have played it on all of the above.) So the music of Denyn is more important than the music of Johnson? And on a Tayor carillon? How about the music of Emilien Allard (playing a carillon transposing up a minor third)? I would argue that in most cases, it isn't necessary to transpose his pieces above how they would sound in "concert pitch" for them to be effective.

It's all very well to develop the skill to transpose, but how many carillonneurs can you name (on either side of the Atlantic) who can do so reliably enough to play that way in concert? Moreover, if you are transposing up to put the music in an intelligible key, eventually you run out of pedal notes. For those pieces that really are written with the low transposition in mind, and there are far fewer pieces involved, the player can transpose those down, since the extra notes are available! The musical instrument should serve the music, not the other way around!
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Re: restored original transposition Baird Carillon Ann Arbor

Postby FrancesNewell on Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:13 pm

I just LOVE those low, rich bells!
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