Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Carillon Aerobics Instruction and the Salzburg Carillon Control Mechanism

A carillon, as we all know,  is a musical instrument with at least three octaves (diatonic octaves, for those of you who need to know) traditionally made of cast bronze bells.   This is not to be confused, as it often is, with the "chime" which is also a set of bells, but not three octave's worth.   In Los Angeles, for example, we have an inoperative turn of the century chime at Hollywood Forever.

Carillons are huge and expensive to build and maintain.  They are traditionally seen in cathedrals in Europe.  We had one at UCSB and they are a lot of fun to have around.

One plays such a thing, when it is in good working order of course, either by pulling on ropes or metal rods from below to actuate a clapper inside the bell or, more likely, by using something that looks like a modified organ keyboard, where the ropes/rods are connected to levers which are positioned like keys in an organ with a lot of play, maybe as much as a foot or more of action on each key.

Carillons are notoriously difficult to play with any skill and it requires a serious amount of physical effort to operate one of these things for any length of time.   This exercise would provide not only a way to build up the upper body, but it is also a serious aerobics activity which requires one to elevate one's heartbeat to a certain level and maintain it there for a period of time.

If our government was serious about fighting obesity and improving the general health of Americans, and not merely mouthing easy platitudes, then I would expect them to build carillons in thousands if not hundreds of thousands of neighborhoods all over America and provide funding for community aerobics instruction.  A carillon would make a pleasant addition to any local planetarium or community aquarium, for example.

I envisage perky and enthusiastic carillon aerobics instructors in tight spandex leading a troop of health-seeking carillon players on ESPN.   I feel certain that American's would respond to this, and that the show would be very popular and run for years, if not decades.

Not everyone however is as energetic as our hypothetical aerobics carillon player, and the Salzburgers have taken the lazy way out and built an elaborate control mechanism for their carillon, thus automating out of existence generations of native carillon aerobics instructors.

We have three things here:  a picture of the drum which appears to be made out of brass, a video of the control drum being positioned (it looks about two stories tall) to play a tune, and finally the tune itself from the point of view of the bells.

 The drum:

The mechanism:

 The performance:

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