Burton Memorial Tower at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor- Historic home of the Charles Baird Carillon which recently made national news and appeared across the nation on the "Big Ten" network as well as PBS stations. You can watch the episode here.

Steven Ball, in addition to his travels as a concert organist, is widely recognized both for his work as a carillonneur and campanologist (someone who studies bells and bell ringing). He can be heard frequently on the instruments of the University of Michigan where he both performs and teaches.

 

 

In addition to being granted a Fulbright Scholarship in 2001-2002 for the continued study of Campanology in the Netherlands, Dr. Ball is also a former student of both the Dutch and Flemish Carillon Schools. He was received into the Guild of Carillonneurs of North America as a member with "Carillonneur" status in 1998.

 

 

The carillon is a musical instrument consisting of least two octaves of tuned (usually bronze) tower bells arranged in chromatic series and played from a keyboard that permits control of expression through variation of touch- as expressive as a piano, as powerful as an organ.

Like the organ, bells are one of very few truly public musical instruments. Used at first to signal public events and to mark the passing of time, tower bells were civic as well as ecclesiastical instruments whose development was fueled by the pride and prosperity of Northern Europe cities in the early Middle Ages.

Eventually, starting in about the 12th or 13th century, entire chimes were produced upon which it was possible to play melodies either via clockwork or by manually "chiming" with wires connected to the bell clappers.
Civic bell ringers first made their appearance as musicians at least as early as 1480 (Aalst). The first definite mention of a keyboard being used to play bells (although it cannot be ruled out in the case of Aalst) is Oudenaarde in 1510.

 

 

As the tuning in these early instruments was more or less accidental, little progress was made in the early evolution of the carillon (a fully tuned, chromatic set of bells) until 1644. It was at that time that the first precisely tuned set of tower bells was manufactured in Zutphen, the Netherlands by François and Pieter Hemony- bellfounders from the little city of Levécourt in Haute Bassigny (now Lorraine) France.
The importance of the Hemonys' discovery was the ability to define a precise relationship between the shape or "profile" of a bell and the overtones it produced. If the overtones of one bell are not in agreement, it is impossible to get it to sound in harmony with other bells- all producing their own individual overtone series as well.

Now, almost 400 years later, this marvelous invention still sounds out over the rooftops of Europe, America and the world. Now, in our heavily mechanized society of roaring engines and thundering radios, the magic of a clock chiming the hour or playing a familiar tune seems lost on many people- almost invisible amidst the vast modern landscape of daily noise. What a pity-


"Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne