Bronzen Piano (with lead)

Bronzen piano

There are multiple successful mobile carillons today, each of which deserve a separate blog post, but one in particular caught my eye when reading the recent edition of the Bulletin of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America.* The Bronzen Piano, owned and played by Koen Van Assche and Anna Maria Reverté, has a unique feature. Cast by Royal Eijsbouts Bell Foundry in 2012, the bells contain 3% lead instead of pure bronze! This is rather astounding when you consider that for centuries bell founders labored hard to produce bells from the purest bronze possible in order to create a long resonance time in the bells. Adding lead actually decreases the resonance time of the bells. And that is actually the point here. Mobile carillons are positioned closer to the audience compared to tower instruments, and so a long resonance time is not as necessary. Furthermore, a shorter resonance time on the bells makes it better suited for playing with other instrumentalists. Harmonies no longer linger so long in the air, threatening to clash with the ever-new melodies and harmonies being played by the carillon or other instrumentalists. Watch the video below courtesy of Van Assche and Reverté.

I think it sounds lovely. And what a snazzy design! Sleek and easily portable to boot.

Bell founders are experimenting with adding lead to other carillons to shorten the resonance time. A 2010 tower carillon cast for Vleuten, the Netherlands, also had lead added, and those involved were pleased. The Royal Carillon School “Jef Denyn” in Mechelen, Belgium, are having lead added to their mobile carillon currently under construction. The percentage of lead will gradually decrease from the lowest to highest octaves. The first octave will have 4% lead, the second 3%, the third 2%, and the fourth 1%.

We shall see if this reduced resonance time for the bells will become the new standard for future carillons. It seems we are moving toward a preference for denser music on the bells and more versatility of the instrument.

*Information taken from “World Carillon Federation Congress 2014: Mobile Carillons” by John Widmann, and vignettes by Margo Halsted and Koen Cosaert in the same article, Bulletin of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America 63, no. 2 (2014): 12-19.

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