Monday, January 4, 2016

Mom's Bells

I have inherited my mother's bell collection.  Thankfully, this did not require her death -- she's alive and well -- but as I've been telling her for decades that I wanted her bells when she was gone and she and Dad are clearing out the house, 2015 meant the transfer of the bells to my care.

And what exquisite little clangers they are!  They range from giant 19" (not including the clapper) sheet metal wind chimes to tiny little 1cm jingles, with everything you can imagine in between.  Dozens of brass bells, animal bells, sleigh bells, gongs, crystal bells, even wooden ones, and they all produce the most delightful sounds.

When the bulk of the collection had arrived last fall, I spent an afternoon sampling some of my favorites.  I then took these samples and have been playing with them since, finally arranging them into a roughly eight minute piece intended to show them off in a pleasant, meditative way.  Thus:

The principle bell here is a very large Conniff wind chime; it is constructed from three triangular pieces of sheet metal of different thicknesses (and thus having three pitches), struck by a nylon disk clapper suspended on a chain and normally activated by the wind.  In this piece, however, I played the chime like a bell, moving the clapper with the chain by hand to sound the different notes, but also rolling the clapper and dragging the chain along the edge of the chime for some lovely "extended" effects.  I also play a second, slightly smaller Conniff chime, a large dinner bell, several animal bells, and two sets of sleigh bells.  None of the bells' sounds are manipulated electronically except for volume and pan.

My intention here was, as I said, simply to enjoy the sounds of each bell and how they interact with each other.  I especially love the rich and often dissonant overtones that bells have; this piece was meant to give the listener time to explore them.  Too, I love the bright jitteriness of a cacophony of bells, and so included some of that in the piece as well.

So, this piece is for my mom:  Thanks, Mom!  I've always loved the sounds of your bells; I hope to make many new and wonderful noises with them to share with you.