A carillon[a] is an idiophone percussion instrument that is played with a keyboard and consists of at least 23 cast bronze bells in fixed suspension and tuned in chromatic order so that they can be sounded harmoniously together. Usually housed in a bell tower, the bells are struck with clappers, which are connected to a keyboard of wooden batons played with the hands and pedals played with the feet. Often, carillons include an automatic system through which the time is announced (via the Westminster Quarters, for example) and simple tunes are played.
Carillons come in a wide variety of appearances, weights, sizes, and sounds. It is one of the world's heaviest instruments, with the heaviest carillon weighing in at over 91 metric tons (100 short tons). A minimum of 23 bells are needed to be called a carillon by those who play and study them. "Concert sized" instruments have about 50, and the world's largest has 77 bells. The appearance of a carillon is dependent on the number and weight of the bells and the tower in which it is housed. They may be found in towers connected to buildings or free-standing, and a small minority are fixed to a frame that enables them to be transported. The bells of the carillon may be directly exposed to the elements or hidden away inside the structure of their tower.
The origins of the carillon can be traced back to the Low Countries--Belgium, the Netherlands, and the French Netherlands--in the 16th century. The modern carillon is considered to be invented in 1644 when Jacob van Eyck and the Hemony brothers cast the first tuned carillon.
Today, there are approximately 700 carillons worldwide. Unsurprisingly, the majority are concentrated around its place of origin, though nearly 200 have been constructed in North America. The majority of extant carillons were constructed in the last two centuries.
The word carillon is a loanword from the French language dating back to the late eighteenth century. It is derived from the Old French carignon (an alteration of quarregon), meaning "a set of four bells." The word quarregon originates from the Latin quaternionem, meaning "set of four"; from quater ("four times"). In German, in addition to using the French term, a carillon is sometimes called a Glockenspiel (lit. "play of bells"), not to be confused with the glockenspiel.
A musician who plays the carillon is commonly called a carillonneur, also loaned from French. It and carillon were adopted by English speakers after the introduction of the instrument to British troops during the War of Spanish Succession. Though the word carillonneur literally refers to carillon players that are men, the French carillonneuse to denote women is not used. Another common term is carillonist, which some players of the carillon have wished for it to replace carillonneur due to the former's simple spelling and unambiguous pronunciation. In 2018, the World Carillon Federation adopted carillonist as the preferred term for its communications.
The carillon is a keyboard instrument. Though it shares similarities with other instruments in this category, such as the organ or pedal piano, its playing console is distinct.[b] Playing with the hands is done on a manual keyboard composed of rounded wooden batons. Like a piano, the manual has short chromatic keys (i.e. "black keys") raised above the diatonic ones ("white keys") and arranged in the same manner; however, they are spaced far apart--about 46 millimetres (1.8 in)--and the chromatic keys are raised 97 millimetres (3.8 in) above the rest. To operate, the keys are depressed approximately 40 to 55 millimetres (1.6 to 2.2 in) with a closed fist. In addition, the bottom 1.5 to 2.5 octaves of the manual are connected to a pedalboard, which is played with the feet. The connection is direct, meaning that when a pedal is pressed, its corresponding key on the manual is pulled down with it. Unlike the organ or pedal piano, the carillon's pedals are shorter and fatter (232 by 30 millimetres (9.1 by 1.2 in) for diatonic pedals and 110 by 30 millimetres (4.3 by 1.2 in) for chromatic pedals), and spaced far apart, about 85 millimetres (3.3 in). They are typically arranged with a slight radiation and concavity on North American carillons and without those features on European equivalents.
Each key is connected to a transmission system via a wire, usually made of stainless steel. When a particular key is depressed, it pulls on the wire which, after interacting with other wires and pulleys, causes a clapper to swing towards the inner wall of the key's corresponding bell. At rest, these clappers are about 50 millimetres (2.0 in) away from the bell wall. For larger bells, gravity is sufficient to pull the clapper back from the bell. Smaller bells are fitted with return springs to pull it back immediately after the stroke, so that the bell is not sounded more than once for each keystroke. Immediately above each key is a wire adjuster called a turnbuckle. These allow the performer to compensate for changes in wire length due to temperature changes.
The cast bronze, cup-shaped bells of a carillon are housed at the top of a tower in a structure typically made of steel or wooden beams. The arrangement of the bells is highly dependent on the available space, the height and construction of the tower, and the number and size of bells. When the heaviest bells are especially large, they are usually placed below the playing cabin in order to achieve a better tonal distribution. The bells themselves do not move during operation, only the clappers. However, with some instruments, the heaviest bells may be outfitted with a mechanism enabling them to swing. Carillons may also feature an automatic mechanism by which simple tunes or the Westminster Quarters are played.
Carillon bells are made of bell bronze, a specialized copper-tin alloy used for its above-average rigidity and resonance. A bell's weight and profile, or shape, determine its note and the quality of its tone. It produces a sound with overtones or partial tones are not necessarily harmonically related. To produce a pleasing, harmonically related series of tones, the bell's profile must be carefully adjusted. Bellfounders typically focus on five principal tones when tuning, most notably the minor third overtone called the tierce, which gives rise to the unique sound of carillons and has been the subject of additional research. Since the casting process does not reliably produce perfectly tuned bells, they are cast slightly thicker and metal is shaved off with a lathe. Once finished, a bell never loses its sound profile. Only fires and air pollution will destroy a bell after it is founded. On older European carillons, bells were tuned with each other by using the meantone temperament tuning system. Modern carillons, particularly those in North America, are tuned to equal temperament.
The carillon has dynamic range similar to that of a piano's, if not more. Through variation of touch, performers are able to express a wide variety of volumes. Bigger bells have more dynamic range than small high bells. Higher-pitched bells, with less bell mass, can only reach a fraction of the volume of the bass bells.
Along with pipe organs, carillons are one of the world's heaviest musical instruments. Most carillons weigh between 4.5 and 15 metric tons (5.0 and 16.5 short tons), with extremes ranging from very light 1 metric ton (1.1 short tons) instruments to the world's heaviest at over 91 metric tons (100 short tons)--the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon of the Riverside Church in New York City. Its bourdon or largest bell is the largest tuned bell ever cast for a carillon, which sounds a full octave below most other bourdons. With weight not standardized across the population, the same music will sound different on each carillon.
The range of the carillon is directly proportional to the number of bells it has. The instrument's total number of bells usually depends on funds available for the creation of the instrument: more money allows more bells to be cast, especially the larger, more costly ones. It is generally accepted that a carillon must have at minimum 23 bells, or else it is called a chime. There is no standard pitch range for the carillon, and as a result, several subcategories are used to categorize them:
The title of world's largest carillon by number of bells is shared between two instruments: the carillon of the Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and the carillon at Daejeon Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea; both have 77 bells.
Since a carillon is seldom played with another instrument, its bourdon may be any pitch--whichever is advantageous for the location and funds available. It is common for the console to have a C-compass to simplify the writing and playing of music. As a result, many carillons are transposing instruments, especially those that are small or older. The transposition can be anywhere from down a perfect fourth to up an octave. In the United States, an increasing number of new carillons have been installed in concert pitch as a result of the desire to establish the carillon as a full-fledged concert instrument.
The carillon originated from a combination of traditions. In medieval times, swinging bells were first used as a way of notifying people of the time of day, imminent church services, and for other events such as fires, storms, and wars. In the 14th century, a weight-driven, revolving pegged drum was invented to be connected to clockworks; the pegs tripped wires which stuck a small set of bells with hammers. Clock chimes eventually began playing simple melodies (such as the Westminster Quarters) preceding the hour strike. Interest in the musical potential of bells was greatest in the Low Countries--present day Belgium, the Netherlands, and the French Netherlands. In this region, bellfounding had reached an advanced stage relative to other regions in Europe.
The earliest records of bells being played with some form of primitive keyboard date to the turn of the 16th century. On 30 December 1482, the city of Antwerp appointed a man named Eliseus to play a small set of bells in St. Michael's Abbey, which had been outfitted with a system of "ropes and sticks." In 1510, Jan Van Spiere, a prominent local clockmaker, installed "a keyboard in the tower to chime" the set of 9 bells in the Oudenaarde Town Hall.
The new instrument developed in the favorable conditions in the Low Countries, notably the Dutch Golden Age. Through ports in Amsterdam and Antwerp, the region gained the financial means and the technological superiority to support bellfounders and their expanding endeavors. Moreover, the political situation under Margaret of Austria and Emperor Charles V brought relative wealth and power to cities. Carillons quickly became a fashionable symbols of civic pride. Cities and towns competed against one another to possess the most imposing instruments comprised of highest quality and largest bells. Often, cities were not satisfied unless they boasted several carillons, and even small villages found the resources to purchase one. The demand was met by a successful industry of bellfounding families, notably the Waghevens and . Together, they produced over 50 carillons during the 16th and early 17th centuries. By 1600, the primitive carillon had become an established feature of the region.
A critical development for the modern carillon occurred in the 17th century, which involved a partnership between Pieter and François Hemony and Jacob van Eyck. The Hemony brothers were prominent bellfounders known for their precise tuning technique. was a renowned blind carillonneur of Utrecht who was commissioned by several Dutch cities to maintain and make improvements to their clock chimes and carillons. He was particularly interested in the sounds of bells, and in 1633, he developed the ability to isolate and describe a bell's five main partial tones and discovered that a bell's partial tones can be tuned harmoniously with each other by adjusting the bell's thickness. The Hemony brothers were commissioned in 1644 to cast 19 bells for Zutphen's Wijnhuis tower with as their consultant. By tuning the bells with the advice from , they created the first carillon by the modern definition. The quality of the bells were so impressive that recommended casting a full two octaves, or 23 bells. This range has been considered the standard minimum range for carillons ever since.
During the next 36 years, the Hemony brothers went on to produce 51 sets of carillon bells.[c] Carillon culture experienced a peak in 1750.
The French Revolution had far-reaching consequences on the Low Countries and the carillon. The Austrian Netherlands were conquered by the French and annexed in 1795; the United Provinces were annexed in 1810. In the second year of the French First Republic, the Committee for Public Safety published instructions for extracting the copper from bells. During this period, there were as many as 110 carillons. About 50 of them were destroyed as a result of war, fire, and destruction. The majority were melted down to produce cannons for the French Revolutionary Wars. Between 1750 and the end of the 19th century, interest in the carillon as a musical instrument greatly declined. The production of new musical works for the instrument essentially came to a standstill. In fact, the standard of carillon performance had dropped so low that in 1895, the music publisher Schott frères issued Matthias Vanden Gheyn's 11 carillon preludes for piano with a foreword claiming that "no carillonneur of our time knows how to play them on the carillon."
The carillon repertoire skews heavily toward newer works in stark contrast to that of its relative the organ's. Today, only about 15 collections of carillon music written before 1900 are known to still exist. As with the early history of the pipe organ, performers relied heavily on improvisations. Archival evidence shows that many early carillonneurs were required to instruct others, especially as they neared retirement. In the Baroque era, keyboard music was not written for one instrument or another, but rather was written to be played on any keyboard instrument. For this reason, much of the carillon's repertoire through the Renaissance period was likely the same as that of the harpsichord, organ, and piano. One of the few surviving examples of evidence is the carillon book of Johannes de Gruytters, dated 1746. The music is clearly arranged for rather than composed for performance on the carillon and could easily be played on other keyboard instruments. Yet, much of the music from this era is well suited for carillon transcription, particularly the works of Vivaldi, Couperin, Corelli, Bach, Mozart, and Handel. The latter two both knew of the instrument. Neither composed for it, but they did include carillonic effects in other works. On the other hand, Michael Haydn, a younger brother of Joseph, did compose for the carillon. The earliest original compositions for the carillon are the famous eleven preludes of . The structure of his works suggest that he had been playing non-specific keyboard music on the carillon for many years.
The development of carillon music was kickstarted with the renewed interest in the instrument in the early 20th century. Jef Denyn and his father Adolf made improvements to the transmission system of the Mechelen carillon, which made dynamic variations, fast musical passages, and tremolos possible. With what he dubbed the "Flemish style," Jef enchanted the citizens of Mechelen during his Monday evening concerts for many years. Dedicated carillon music publishers emerged around this time, starting with his school in 1925.
A distinct North American carillon culture emerged in the 19th century, with Percival Price as its first major driving force. In 1922, he was appointed as the continent's first professional carillonneur, and in 1927, he was the first North American to graduate from the Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn." Price composed carillon music and instructed others on the principles of simplicity, transparency, and the avoidance of dissonances. In 1934, compositions by Curtis Institute of Music students Samuel Barber, Gian Carlo Menotti, and Nino Rota were published by G. Schirmer, Inc., the first time carillon music was published in North America. A great leap forward in the evolution of the carillon art took place in the 1950s and 1960s at the University of Kansas. Ronald Barnes, the university's carillonneur, encouraged peers to compose for the carillon, and produced many of his own works. Barnes' campaign was most successful with Roy Hamlin Johnson, a piano professor who introduced a whole category of music exclusively native to the carillon featuring the octatonic scale. Many of Johnson's works are acknowledged as masterpieces. Barnes produced 56 original compositions and hundreds of arrangements to expand the available repertoire. Other major 20th-century contributors were Albert Gerken, Gary C. White, Johan Franco, and John Pozdro. The new American style developed into the antithesis of the Mechelen style: instead of exciting, tremolo-filled performances that demonstrate the showmanship of the carillonneur, it features slow passages, sparse harmonies, and impressionist themes to draw the listener's attention to the natural sound of the bells.
The World Carillon Federation is the central organization of carillon players and enthusiasts. It was founded in the 1970s as a federation of the preexisting national or regional carillon organizations. As of 2021 , it is comprised of 14 member organizations:
The federation organizes an international carillon congress in one of the home countries of the member organizations every three years. The congresses host lectures, workshops, and committee meetings about the topics related to the carillon, for example: news, tutorials and demos, and research developments. Most member organizations publish periodicals to update its members on the current state of carillon culture in their respective regions.
Training to perform on a carillon can be obtained at several institutions, though the Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn" remains the most sought-after educational program for the carillon in the world. Founded in 1922, it is the oldest and first school of its kind and has branches in several cities and affiliate schools. The LUCA School of Arts in Leuven, Belgium offers a master's program in the carillon, and the Utrecht School of the Arts in Amersfoort, Netherlands has a dedicated school. There are schools elsewhere in the United Kingdom, France, and Denmark.
The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America organizes carillon examinations during its annual congresses. Those who pass are certified as carillonneur-members of the guild. It also partners with the North American Carillon School, founded in 2012 as an affiliate of the Royal Carillon School "Jef Denyn." Several American universities offer a carillon program within their curriculum. The University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, and the University of Denver offer complete courses of study. Clemson University, the University of Kansas,Iowa State University,Marquette University,Grand Valley State University, and the University of Rochester offer limited credit for carillon performance. Employed carillonneurs at several universities and also those not employed at university-owned carillons offer private lessons. Universities that possess a carillon but do not offer course credit often have a club or student-run education program, such as the Yale Guild of Carillonneurs, which manages performances on the Yale Memorial Carillon.
Carillons across the world are registered and counted by the World Carillon Federation. TowerBells is another carillon registry owned by Carl Scott Zimmerman, which provides a list of carillons and their technical specifications. There are additional registries that specialize in specific types of carillons, such as the War Memorial and Peace Carillons registry, which counts carillons that serve as war memorials or were built in the name of promoting world peace. According to the registries, there are approximately 696 carillons in the world. At least three can be found on every continent except Antarctica; however, of the 30 countries in which carillons can be found, only 11 have more than four. The "great carillon" countries--the Netherlands, Belgium, and the United States--account for almost 70percent of the world total. The concentration of carillons is highest in Europe, unsurprisingly centered on the Low Countries where the instrument originated.
|Country||Carillons[d]||Land area||Carillon density|
|km2||sq mi||per 1,000 km2||per 1,000 sq mi|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1||51,187||19,763||0.020||0.051|
Traveling or mobile carillons are those which are not housed in a tower. Instead, the bells and playing console are installed on a frame that allow it to be transported. These carillons have to be much lighter than their non-mobile counterparts. According to a count by the World Carillon Federation, there are 18 existing mobile carillons. Three are headquartered in Belgium, two in France, two in Germany, two in Japan, two in the Netherlands, two in the United States, one in the Czech Republic, one in Denmark, one in Poland, one in Portugal, and one in Spain.
The two American traveling carillons are part of the musical group Cast in Bronze, which features the carillon in concert with other instruments or a recording. The group is owned by Frank DellaPenna, who performs in a costume named "The Spirit of the Bells." He is credited with introducing the carillon to the general public of the United States in his mission to promote and preserve the carillon art.