Swinging Bells!

Discussions on various technical aspects of carillon instruments and standards.

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Swinging Bells!

Postby FrancesNewell on Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:21 pm

I was so inspired by Elizabeth Vitu's video of the new bells at Notre dame!
Can you play melodies on swinging bells?
I heard Dr. Laura Ellis play a concert at Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago at the Naperville 2010 congress.
I was told they have a swinging bell that is the VERY low Eb below the bass clef.
Are the overtones different on swinging bells?
Do they sound longer?
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Re: Swinging Bells!

Postby JohnGouwens on Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:51 pm

I will let others respond to the issue of different partials - except to say that theoretically, they should be the same. At Rockefeller Chapel, five of the bells (the largest 19,000 pounds) are equipped to swing. There is a swinging clapper inside the bell, and the carillonneur operates an external hammer (so that is related to another discussion here). At Rockefeller, the clock chiming uses an independent external hammer on the opposite side of the bell. (Both are perpendicular to the movement of the bell when it swings, so they are out of the way.)

There is another way to play on what are otherwise strictly swinging bells, however, called an Ellacombe hammer. Here's a passage on the topic from my upcoming Campanology book:

An interesting offshoot of change-ringing was developed in 1821 by the Reverend Henry Thomas Ellacombe, while he was vicar at a parish church in Bitten, Gloucestershire. He came up with a way that a single person could sound changes on the bells. (Tradition has it that he did this to do away with a rather coarse-mannered band of ringers.) Clappers (called “Ellacombe hammers”) were mounted on the frame beneath the bells, connected to ropes which were run down to the ringing room (or lower) in the tower, and connected to a rack where the ropes were next to each other. By pulling outward on the corresponding rope, the clapper would come up and strike the bell (usually on the inside). The bells had to be in a down position, of course. These were intended to be used for ringing changes, but eventually came to be used for melodies as well. Also, large, tubular tower chimes were often operated from an Ellacombe rack in Great Britain, as well as in a few early American examples.

Ellacombe videos:
tubular chimes
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGmen5PPzQc

Bells:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSJ09_2eFMQ
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Re: Swinging Bells!

Postby FrancesNewell on Wed Mar 27, 2013 7:53 pm

I thought that change ringing would be the main game with swinging bells.
The acoustics must be different!
When a bell is swinging, the sound waves do not go out in a straight line.
Does this create a vibrato, or distortion or wobble?
Does that affect how you would play a melody on straight bells over a bass line on swinging bells?
They surely are inspiring to look at!
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Re: Swinging Bells!

Postby JohnGouwens on Wed Mar 27, 2013 8:50 pm

For sure there's a doppler effect for swinging bells (change-ringing or otherwise). In the case of change-ringing, you also have the clapper deadening the note when the bell is in the "up" position. The difference is interesting to observe:

Small Change-Ringing Peal (2011 Taylor) – note when they let the bells coast that the clappers no longer damp the bells.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUIPNIddeig

You can more clearly see what is going on with the clappers in this one:

Saint Paul’s Cathedral: (note the clapper rebounding as the bell comes to the top in the foreground)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=dxI8P6-Ll68&NR=1


Not the clearest video in the world, but here, by the way, is an Ellacombe apparatus as filmed in the belfry:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MugF9X9y4Y

Finally, grand finale, the immense Taylor ring of 12 at Liverpool Cathedral:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV_3CJ1Yq9o
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Re: Swinging Bells!

Postby TerryMcGee on Wed Mar 27, 2013 9:50 pm

Performance aspects are well out of my field, Frances, but I'd expect you would be perceiving both vibrato (change in pitch) and tremolo (change in volume).

The change in pitch would be due to Doppler effect - as the bell swings toward you, the pitch goes up, and as it tumbles away, the pitch goes down. Like the police siren that drops a semitone as the car speeds by, but this effect is repetitive. The degree of change is not going to be great, which is fortunate, as it would sound awful if the bell were swinging at a high speed!

The change in volume would be due to the directional nature of bells. As the bell swings, the "beam" of sound radiating out horizontally would sweep over you and back. Indeed there would also be a change in the tonal colour as the bell swings. I'm not sure if there is a musical technical term for that, although the guitarists' wah-wah pedal operates on that principle.

I'm reminded that some English concertina players used to swing the concertina around as they played, and sometimes also jab it forward and back as if to emphasise a point. The audible effect is very clear, indeed, I've found it distracting. Irish concertina players prefer to sit, and anchor one end of the instrument firmly on one knee, so quite the opposite approach. Unusual for the Irish to be less demonstrative than the English?

Terry
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Re: Swinging Bells!

Postby TerryMcGee on Wed Mar 27, 2013 9:57 pm

Interesting to see the amount of swing imparted to the bell on the right in the Ellacombe video.

Terry
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Re: Swinging Bells!

Postby JohnGouwens on Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:24 pm

Well, if you look closely, the bell is a swinging bell (quite likely a change-ringing bell) and the hammer is at "twelve o'clock" relative to it's direction of movement when swung, so yes, of course it will make the bell move. I suspect that many Ellacombe hammers are positioned somewhere else, even at "three o'clock" or so, and thus be less likely to make the bell sway. I have no idea how consistent such things might be in Ellacombe installations.

There is, by the way, one carillon (no swinging bells) with eight bells fitted additionally with Ellacombe hammers - Christ Church Cranbrook, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The rack is lower in the tower than the carillon console.
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Re: Swinging Bells!

Postby TerryMcGee on Fri Mar 29, 2013 6:31 am

JohnGouwens wrote:Well, if you look closely, the bell is a swinging bell (quite likely a change-ringing bell) and the hammer is at "twelve o'clock" relative to it's direction of movement when swung, so yes, of course it will make the bell move. I suspect that many Ellacombe hammers are positioned somewhere else, even at "three o'clock" or so, and thus be less likely to make the bell sway. I have no idea how consistent such things might be in Ellacombe installations.


Yes, I saw that, but was still interested that the bell reacts so much. But of course in a swinging situation, not only is the bell free to swing, but the pivot point will be chosen to make it easy to swing. So we can expect the clapper to bump it further than it would bump a loosely hanging bell, and further than it would bump a bell mounted as we do it.

Perhaps it's surprising that the bell isn't "locked into place" when in Ellacombe mode, but I guess it illustrates that the inertia of the bell is enough to keep it in place. Although I imagine quick repetition under these circumstances might be a bit "hit and miss"!

During our recent professional development weekend in Canberra, I wanted to be able to illustrate to the carillonists the importance of the bell being free to move a bit during the strike. I didn't have a real bell to illustrate, but I found a wine glass helpful. (To be quite truthful, I often find a wine glass helpful!) Hold it in the air by the base or stem and flick it - bong. Hold it down to the desk by pressing on the base - plink or even brrrr, depending on the glass. But isolate it from the desk by lightly pressing down the base on a folded up tea-towel and the bong is back.
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Re: Swinging Bells!

Postby JohnGouwens on Fri Mar 29, 2013 6:33 am

Terry - did you get my sound files?
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Re: Swinging Bells!

Postby JohnGouwens on Fri Mar 29, 2013 6:36 am

Given the clumsiness of the Ellacombe, I would think quick repetition would be rather difficult. Are there any of those in Australia?
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