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(Sets of bells or chimes)
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(Sets of bells or chimes)
A carillon (//, //, or //; French: [kaʁijɔ̃]) is a musical instrument that is typically housed in the bell tower (belfry) of a church or other municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are serially played to produce a melody, or sounded together to play a chord. A traditional manual carillon is played by striking a keyboard — the stick-like keys of which are sometimes called batons — with the fists, and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet. The keys mechanically activate levers and wires that connect to metal clappers that strike the inside of the bells, allowing the performer on the bells, or carillonneur, to vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key.
In medieval times, swinging bells were first used as a way of notifying people of fires, storms, wars and other events. A ringing of bells from the lowest note to the highest note indicated that an attack had taken place. The use of bells in a musical fashion originated in the 16th century in the Low Countries. The first carillon was in Flanders, where a "fool" performed music on the bells of Oudenaarde Town Hall in 1510 by making use of a baton keyboard. The word "carillon" is from the French "quadrillon", meaning four bells. Bell towers were often used to alert the city of the time of day, and just before the strike of the hour bell a few higher tones were struck to gain the attention of the city-folk.
Since each separate note is produced by an individual bell, a carillon's musical range is determined by the number of bells it has. Different names are assigned to instruments based on the number of bells they comprise:
The Riverside Carillon in New York City has the largest tuned carillon bell in the world, which sounds the C two octaves below middle C on the piano.
Travelling or mobile carillons are not placed in a tower, but can be transported. Some of them can even be played indoor—in a concert hall or church—like the mobile carillon of Frank Steijns.
The World Carillon Federation defines a carillon as "A musical instrument composed of tuned bronze bells which are played from a baton keyboard. Only those carillons having at least 23 bells be taken into consideration" 
The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA) defines a carillon as "a musical instrument consisting of at least two octaves of carillon bells arranged in chromatic series and played from a keyboard permitting control of expression through variation of touch. A carillon bell is a cast bronze cup-shaped bell whose partial tones are in such harmonious relationship to each other as to permit many such bells to be sounded together in varied chords with harmonious and concordant effect." The GCNA defines a "traditional carillon" as one played from a carillon mechanical (not electrified) baton keyboard; a "non-traditional carillon" as a musical instrument with bells, but played by automated mechanical or electro-mechanical means, or from an electrical or electronic keyboard.
The carillonneur or carillonist is the title of the musician who plays the carillon. The carillonneur/carillonist usually sits in a cabin beneath the bells and presses down, with a loosely closed fist, on a series of baton-like keys arranged in the same pattern as a piano keyboard. The batons are almost never played with the fingers as one does a piano, though this is sometimes used as a special carillon playing technique. The keys activate levers and wires that connect directly to the bells' clappers; thus, as with a piano, the carillonneur can vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key. In addition to the manual keys, the heavier bells are also played with a pedal keyboard. These notes can either be played with the hands or the feet.
Poorly tuned bells often give an "out of tune" impression and also can be out of tune with themselves. This is due to the unusual harmonic characteristics of foundry bells, which have strong overtones above and below the fundamental frequency.
There is no standard pitch range for the carillon. In general, a concert carillon will have a minimum of forty-eight bells. The range of any given instrument usually depends on funds available for the fabrication and installation of the instrument: more money allows more bells to be cast, especially the larger, more costly ones. Older carillons can be transposing instruments, generally transposing upward. Most modern instruments sound at concert pitch. A carillon clavier has both a manual and a pedal keyboard.
Carillon music is typically written on two staves. Notes written in the bass clef are generally played by the feet. Notes written in the treble clef are played with the hands. Pedals range from the lowest note (the bourdon) and may continue up to two and half octaves. In the North American Standard keyboard, all notes can be played on the manual.
Because of the acoustic peculiarities of a carillon bell (the prominence of the minor third, and the lack of damping of sound), music written for other instruments needs to be arranged specifically for the carillon.
The combination of carillon and other instruments, while possible, is generally not a happy marriage. The carillon is generally far too loud to perform with most other concert instruments. The great exceptions to this are some late twentieth- and early twenty-first century compositions involving electronic media and carillon. In these compositions, sound amplification is able to match the extreme dynamic range of the carillon and, in the case of sensitive composers, even the most delicate effects are possible. Brass music is often heard together with a (traveling) carillon.
Number carillons by selected countries and regions (data September 2006):
|Flanders and Brussels||13,683||66|
|Nord, France||5,743||15|
|Côte d'Or, France||8,763||5|
The 161-foot University of California, Riverside bell tower with a 48-bell carillon.
In North America, one can study the carillon at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (which is home to two of only twenty-three grand carillons in the world), the University of Florida, the University of Denver's Lamont School of Music, Missouri State University, and Berea College, Berea, KY, all which offer complete courses of study. One can also take private lessons at many carillon locations, and there are universities that offer limited credit for carillon performance, such as Clemson University, University of Kansas, Iowa State University, and Marquette University.
Another international carillon school, the Scandinavian Carillon School in Løgumkloster, Denmark, was established back in 1979. It serves mainly Scandinavians, but does also cooperate with other carillon schools at university level with student exchange.
A number of universities and undergraduate institutions also make use of carillons as part of their tradition. SUNY Geneseo’s carillon sounds traditional clock bell tones every hour, along with various songs, everything from classical to pop, being played throughout the day. Cornell University is home to the Cornell Chimes, one of the most frequently played set of bells on any American college campus. Housed in historic McGraw Tower, the 21-bells are played primarily by student chimesmasters. Princeton University houses a carillon of 67 bells which can be heard every Sunday afternoon and most Wednesday evenings with performances from Robin Austin, his students, and guest artists. Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts completed its carillon of 48 bells in 2009, ninety years after the first bells were hung in 1919. Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont also has a 48 bell carillon, which is located in the steeple of the college's Mead Memorial Chapel.
Good illustrations of the tradition includes Sather Tower at Cal Berkeley, and the Rockefeller Carillon at the University of Chicago — the latter of which is the largest single musical instrument in the world.
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