PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Discussions on various technical aspects of carillon instruments and standards.

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PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby FrancesNewell on Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:10 pm

I enjoyed the rhyhtms and variety of sounds on the Elements of Light by Pantha du Prince. I am fascinated by combining carillon with other instruments. I've tried a little of it myself and am only beginning to explore the possibilities.
However, older carillons, which have the OLDER TUNING, which sounds noticably LOWER than modern concert pitch.
Handbells, vibraphone and tubular bells are all tuned to MODERN concert pitch.
I heard an uncomfortable clash between the different tunings.
I would offer the following constructive suggestions, not meant as criticisms:
1. When combining carillon with TUNED percussion instruments, use a carillon that is tuned to concert pitch.
2. When combining with an older carillon, whose sounds I love, just use UNTUNED percussion, such as wood blocks, cymbals, many kinds of drums and rattles.
Those older carillons present a challenge in combining them with any other instruments. Some instruments CAN be tuned to them, such as a violin or guitar. However, when I got the 54-bell Ghent carillon bells, each individually sampled, into my computer and tuned my guitar to accompany it, I felt like I was tuning my guitar a 1/4-tone FLAT. After decades of tuning to concert pitch, I was uncomfortable.
I still plan to explore combining carillon with other instruments a lot more.
Is the CAST IN BRONZE carillon tuned to concert pitch?
I assume Loen Van Acsshe's new carillon will be?
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Re: PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby JohnGouwens on Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:26 pm

Frank Della Penna just joined the forum, so he can confirm, but I'm confident all three of the carillons they use for Cast in Bronze are modern pitch. Indeed the standard for pitch has moved around over the years. In the 1920s, A-435 was the common pitch standard. Gillett & Johnston carillons (in whatever transposition) were supposedly related to A-435 (as I suspect your carillon in Rumson is, though it's Taylor), but in fact their forks weren't very accurate, and A ended up being A-432.5. That caused some real problems when people started adding to them in the 1950s. Petit & Fritsen in particular added many sets of trebles to old G&J carillons, one of the earliest being Michigan State University (1950-52, since re-done with new Eijsbouts bells that do match). Whether they tried to make A-435 bells or A-440 I am not certain, but in any case, they never matched. Other inaccuracies (to the temperament) meant that some of those added trebles agreed with their lower counterparts better than others. Many of those carillons are still around, such as University of Toronto (1975) and Grosse Pointe Memorial Church (1952). Mayo Clinic had the same problem (that one was a later example, 1977), but the recent work by Het Molenpad Expertise (Gideon Bodden and Steven Ball) included correcting the tuning on the P&F trebles. It sounds much better, as I can attest from having played recitals both on the "before" and the "after."

The real comedy of errors is Metropolitan Church in Toronto, though. The original 23 G&J bells were of course low, and some speculate that their tuning got to be a bit more peculiar in the late-1920s fire that destroyed the rest of the church but spared the tower (though it destroyed the automatic playing equipment just below). In 1960, P&F added one octave - tuned to A-440. Ouch!! In 1971, working with Rick Watson, 1.5 octaves of Paccard bells were added atop all that, with those bells being tuned to work well with the G&J bells - so it's really three different instruments, with an octave right in the middle that really sticks out. (Despite all that, it is an interesting carillon, for sure, and all the bells there are good bells.)

So indeed, there are problems pairing an older carillon with modern tuned instruments where the tuning isn't adjustable. Also, bear in mind that temperature changes will impact the overall tuning of a carillon. It's still in tune with itself, thankfully, but tends to go (I think - somebody correct me if I have this wrong) flat in warmer weather and sharp in colder weather.
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Re: PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby FrancesNewell on Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:32 pm

That makes sense, colder weather contracts the metal and makes the bells very lightly smaller, giving slightly higher tone. Hot weather expands the metal, hence a slightly larger bell and slightly lower tone.
This is why I am writing for carillon and singers. Good singers can adjust their ears on the spot and sing on pitch with a carillon.
You are correct that my Rumson carillon is tuned lower. Our Taylor bells were given in 1934. Our low Eb was given in 2001 and,thankfully, the Taylor Foundry tuned it well with the others.
Too bad it's lower tuning, because I wish I could combine my carilllon with the organ! I can hear the organ loudly and clearly in my cabin and they can hear the carillon loudly and clearly in the church! as it is, I always wait briefly before ringing after the organ postlude, so that listeners ears will not be jarred by the different tuning!
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Re: PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby Gideon Bodden on Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:33 pm

Very true, in several cases extensions of older G&J-carillons were not tuned properly. However, this did not (always) have to do with the newly added bells being tuned to 440 Hz. In case of the Mayo Clinic, the 1928 G&J-bells were tuned to an average pitch of A=434.6 Hz, but the 1977 Petit & Fritsen bells were averagely tuned to 431.5 Hz..... But with wild deviations from that average pitch. My guess is that they have tried to do it right, and recorded the sound of the G&J bells as a tuning reference, but played the tape in the foundry at a slow running tape player..
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Re: PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby Gideon Bodden on Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:38 pm

FrancesNewell wrote:That makes sense, colder weather contracts the metal and makes the bells very lightly smaller, giving slightly higher tone. Hot weather expands the metal, hence a slightly larger bell and slightly lower tone.


The bells becoming smaller or larger when temperatures get lower or higher, is not the reason for the pitch of the bells to go up or down. When the metal becomes warmer its flexibility increases, it has less resistance to deformation, and vibrations will slow down.
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Re: PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby JohnGouwens on Mon Feb 04, 2013 3:43 pm

Interesting about both Mayo (I really didn't know that story!) and about the temperature influencing the vibrations. But, Gideon, the dimensions of the bells change with temperature also; how could that not also influence the pitch?

It is interesting how the way in which bell tuning is influenced goes against what many of us would assume. One would think that cutting metal away from the sides of the bell would raise the pitch, but of course in most cases, the reverse is true, and that (also, apparently) is because the thinning of the bell wall reduces its "tension," and it takes vibrations more readily, thus a lower frequency.
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Re: PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby margaretpan on Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:18 pm

One would think that cutting metal away from the sides of the bell would raise the pitch, but of course in most cases, the reverse is true, and that (also, apparently) is because the thinning of the bell wall reduces its "tension," and it takes vibrations more readily, thus a lower frequency.


Yes, a thicker wall is stiffer: when the clapper strikes, a stiffer wall deforms less under the impact and rebounds to its original shape more quickly. In other words, the natural response time of the thicker/stiffer wall is faster, and that means a higher natural vibration frequency.

The same effect shows up sometimes in practice instruments -- I've seen ones where the lowest notes have tone bars the same length as, but half as thick as, the notes an octave higher.

...the dimensions of the bells change with temperature also; how could that not also influence the pitch?


I guess (admittedly without knowing the numbers) maybe the change in dimensions does affect the pitch, but the change in the pitch due to the bell wall stiffness is simply much larger?
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Re: PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby JohnGouwens on Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:24 pm

Could well be, Margaret! Thanks for your insights. I would wonder, really, how one would ever measure the way in which stiffness as opposed to dimension participates in sharpening the pitch in the cold. Since both would move it in the same direction, it might not be possible to tell, really. :ugeek:
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Re: PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby margaretpan on Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:12 pm

I would wonder, really, how one would ever measure the way in which stiffness as opposed to dimension participates in sharpening the pitch in the cold.


I'd imagine the amount of expansion/contraction and stiffness change per degree of heating/cooling are properties of the bronze material itself, so I guess you could obtain a (not necessarily bell-shaped) piece of bell bronze from a foundry, measure in a lab how much it contracts and how much it "stiffens" when you cool it, and use those numbers to calculate the change in pitch you'd expect from contraction alone and from stiffening alone. (Actually it wouldn't surprise me if foundries had tables of these kinds of measurements around for reference.)
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Re: PLAYING CARILLON WITH OTHER PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS

Postby JohnGouwens on Tue Feb 05, 2013 10:15 pm

Gideon has done his own designing of bell profiles, so he may well know. However, since a flat bar would also get longer or shorter with temperature changes, I'm not clear why that would reveal anything that a bell wouldn't.
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