In this version of the Glossary, definitions are listed in alphabetical order. (There is an alternate version of this Glossary which presents the defined terms in a logical, rather than alphabetical, order. The content of both versions is identical except as required to suit the order used.)
All defined words are italicized when they occur in the definitions of other words. A few key word definitions are given not explicitly but by context within other definitions; these words are emphasized at that point. As in a dictionary, each formally-defined word is tagged to indicate whether it is a noun (n.), a transitive verb (v.t.), an intransitive verb (v.i.) or an adjective (adj.). Where a word can be either a noun or a verb, the noun form is listed first.
When a campanile or other bell tower is built so that a space to contain the bells
is a separate and distinct part of the principal structure of the tower,
that space is called the belfry.
This word is derived from the old French "belfort," which refers to a city-owned
bell tower that serves various civic purposes -- time signals, alarms for fire
or invasion or other catastrophes, celebrations, etc.
The word "belfry" is sometimes used in this sense, e.g., "the belfry of Ghent."
An encyclopedic article pictures such a tower and explains the term "belfort."
In some parts of western Europe, it is common to find that the belfry of a church tower or civic tower contains only one or a few large swinging bells, while a lantern containing a set of smaller bells forms a narrower superstructure on the top of the tower. A similar small structure on the roofridge of a building without a tower may be called a cupola.
(2) - a site having at least 23 tower bells in at least two octaves of mostly chromatic series, but falling short of the "traditional" carillon either in the lack of tuning of the bells or in the type of mechanism (e.g., electric keyboard or solely automatic operation). In these site data pages, the term non-traditional carillon is generally used when this definition is specifically intended.
(2a) - A very small number of instruments having baton keyboard but electric action are described as hybrid carillons; they are indexed as non-traditional carillons but are also included in country indexes to traditional carillons by city name.
(3) - an automatic mechanical tune-playing mechanism, usually found as auxiliary equipment on a ring in England; this distinctively British usage of the word is not employed in these site data pages.
(4) - a chime played from a mechanical keyboard; this distinctively French usage of the word is not employed in these site data pages. However, it should be noted that in 2011, the World Carillon Federation adopted the term historical carillon to refer to old instruments of this type with a baton keyboard.
A tubular carillon is an instrument composed of at least two octaves of tower tubes; these are cast from bell metal and are comparable in weight to tower bells, but are shaped rather like oversized orchestral chimes, or like the chimes of a grandfather clock or a doorbell. This instrument may have either a purely mechanical action or an electro-mechanical action.
NOTE: Where the word carillon is used in these site data pages without qualification, either definition (1) or definition (2) may be meant, without distinction.
NOTE: The word carillon is commonly mis-spelled as carillion, and occasionally mis-spelled in other ways.
We do not attempt to indicate the degree to which any of the listed bells attain or fail such harmony.
Of French derivation, the term "carillonneur" has long been used in the English language, and obviously forms the basis for the name of The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America (GCNA). It is found in most unabridged English dictionaries, is unambiguous, and is understood by all English-speaking aficionados of the carillon.
However, some carillon players prefer the term "carillonist" as being more appropriate in the English language. This is analogous to flute players preferring "flutist" over the French/Italian "flautist". There is historical evidence for the term "carilloner" having been used by some American chime players in the 19th century, but that seems to modern ears to be as awkward as "fluter". This may be because of the way that specialized words for instrumental musicians are related to their respective root words.
>> Words of the form "instrumentalist" (i.e., with suffix "-ist") have as their root a noun which is the name of the instrument which is played, so they refer to "one who plays the instrument" (e.g., a pianist plays a piano).
>> Words of the form "player" (i.e., with suffix "-er") have as their root a verb which describes the action of the player of the instrument. Thus they refer to "one who performs a specific action", e.g., a drummer drums. Usually the root is also the name of the instrument, but there are exceptions, e.g., a ringer rings bells.
As far as can be determined, this difference between "-ist" and "-er" suffixes holds true in both French and English.
(2) - any collection of at least 8 tower bells which is not a carillon by either definition (1) or definition (2) above (e.g., a large zvon).
NOTE: The term "the chimes" is often colloquially used in contexts where "the chime" would be more correct. However, the related terms orchestral chimes and clock chimes are both singular and plural.
NOTE: In these site data pages, carillon-sized instruments will be counted as carillons in summaries even when they are indexed under chimes.
(2) (v.t.) - to sound one or more bells by any method (colloquial).
(3) (v.i.) - to emit the sound of a bell (colloquial), as in the old clock bell inscription, "To tell the time, we chime."
(2) - a wall-mounted rack to which are tied ropes leading to the clappers of a chime; sometimes called a taut-rope clavier. When used as auxiliary equipment with a ring, the ropes are connected not to the clappers but to externally-mounted under-hammers. In the original design, commonly called an Ellacombe stand after its inventor, each hammer when at rest is out of the path of the swinging bell. [An illustration from Ellacombe's book will explain this better when we can add it.] To shorten the hammer stroke for better control when playing, the hammers can be partially raised by retying the ropes at a different point; but they must later be lowered out of the way to permit the bells to swing without interference. An improved design uses a movable tie bar to enable all of the hammers to be raised or lowered simultaneously without retying any of the hammer ropes.
In a swinging bell, the clapper is pivoted on the central axis and moves freely as a pendulum, striking the bell alternately on one side and then the other. If the clapper is moving faster than the bell at the instant of striking, it is called a flying clapper; otherwise it is a falling clapper. Such a bell may also be struck by a tolling hammer and/or a clock hammer when it is not swinging.
In a bell hung dead, the clapper is often suspended close to one side of the bell, and moves under control of the operating mechanism. A dead-hung bell may have no clapper at all, being struck only by one or more hammers, if it is played only automatically or if it is too small for a clapper of adequate size (e.g., a carillon bell in the very high treble range).
In the heaviest carillons, the bourdon and possibly a few other bass bells may fall into this category.
(1a) - a set of bells hung dead but rung by means of clapper ropes in a manner that somewhat simulates the sound of swinging bells; this methodology seems to be unique to Malta, and is here called a stationary peal while being categorized as a chime; in harmony and in use it is distinct from a zvon.
(2) - the performance, by a band of change-ringers, of at least 5000 changes, non-stop; on a ring of 7 or more bells, no two changes may be the same. This definition is not used in these site data pages.
(3) - a ring. This definition is fiercely held by some change ringers, while being strongly deprecated by others; it is not used in these site data pages.
(2) (v.i.) - to emit the sound of a bell, e.g., "The bells pealed out jubilantly."
(2) (v.t.) - to sound (a bell) by any method.
(3) (v.i.) - to emit a bell-like sound (e.g., "a bell will ring to announce ...").
If a new instrument replaced an older one of the same kind in the same tower, both are included in the same site rather than being counted separately, even if there was a gap of many years between removal and replacement.
NOTE: In the context of the World Wide Web, the word "site" is often used to mean either (a) a host computer and all the Web pages resident on it, or (b) a home page and all the pages dependent from it on the same host. In an attempt at clarity, we will not use meaning (a), and will use the composite word Website when meaning (b) is intended.
American-made swinging bells of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were often equipped with a tolling hammer, which could be used only when the bell was not swinging.
All tower bells in listed instruments are presumed to be hung dead unless otherwise stated. The exception is rings, where the reverse is true.
If note and pitch are identical, the transposition is zero and the instrument is said to be in concert pitch. Actually, this is true only if the heaviest C bell in the instrument weighs between 2 and 3 tons. (See the second panel of the Weights page.) Lighter instruments may transpose upward an octave or even more.
Most carillons and chimes are transposing instruments. But unlike other musical instruments, the transposition is not standardized--it varies considerably depending upon the weight of the instrument, which in turn was determined by the size of the tower, the funds available for construction, and other factors. This can be seen by examining the list of North American traditional carillons indexed by weight; the last column shows that transposition of these instruments varies from -5 (a fourth downward) to 24 (two octaves upward).
This page was created 1996/12/12 and last revised 2021/03/04.
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