Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/324

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312
CARILLON.
 

that they should be very strong, and the barrel itself thus became so large, cumbrous, and expensive an affair as to add very much to the difficulties of fixing a large carillon-machine both in regard to cost and space. The time occupied in raising the hammer rendered any rapid repetition of a note impossible with a single hammer, especially with the larger bells; consequently a large proportion of the bells had to be furnished with two or more hammers to provide for this difficulty, the pins being arranged so as to sound two or three hammers successively on the same bell when the immediate repetition of a note was required. The method of sounding the note by the release of the lever from the pin did not conduce to precise accuracy in the time of sounding, but a much more serious interference with correct tempo arose from the fact that as some of the heavier hammers offered much greater resistance to the pins than others, while the barrel was driven by the same uniform weight, the progress of the tune was constantly retarded before the striking of the larger bells, producing the irregular or 'stuttering' effect which those who have listened to carillon chimes must have noticed.[1] The system is in fact mechanically so clumsy, and involves so much loss of time and power, that it is obvious that carillon-chimes, if worth doing at all, are worth doing better than this.

England has borrowed the idea of carillons only recently from the continent, but has the credit of inventing and perfecting the principle of mechanism which has surmounted all the above-named drawbacks of the Belgian carillon machinery. The part which English science and ingenuity has played in the matter is, in fact, exactly similar to that which it has taken in regard to organ-building. We borrowed from the Germans the idea of the grand instruments with full pedal organ which supplemented the 'box of whistles' of the old English builders, but our modern builders have applied to them mechanical refinements which have almost revolutionised organ-playing (not perhaps always in the right direction), and have placed at the disposal of the English organist facilities for variety of effect and brilliant execution such as his German brother in the art is scarcely cognisant of at all. In regard to the improvement in carillons it is only simple justice to say that, so far, its history is identified entirely with one firm, who perseveringly set themselves to accomplish the task of simplifying and perfecting the control of the bells on true mechanical principles. Messrs. Gillett and Bland, of Croydon, clock manufacturers, having turned their attention to the construction of carillons, aimed at getting rid of the main difficulty which is, as we have shown, at the bottom of all the defects of the old system, namely, the use of the same action both for lifting and letting go the hammers. The principle on which this improvement is effected is by the introduction of a revolving cam wheel aeneath each lever, which, continually turning, raises the lever the moment the hammer has struck the bell, so that the latter is at once brought into position again for striking, and the action of the pins on the barrel, instead of being a lifting and letting-off action, is merely a letting-off, the whole of the lifting being done by the cam wheels. As in many other mechanical inventions, the simplicity of action which characterises the new carillon machinery was not attained at once. In the first attempts, of which the chiming machine at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, is an example, the barrel was still of an unwieldy size, though an attempt was made to compensate for this in some measure by a novelty of construction, the barrel consisting not of a solid cylinder but a series of double bars, between which the pins were fixed in such a manner, by screws, as to be readily capable of being loosened and shifted one way or the other, so as to be adjusted to a new set of tunes if desired. The first machine made on this system was put up at Boston, playing 28 tunes on 44 bells, but the connection between the letting-off and lifting action being much too complicated and circuitous, the inventors patented a further improvement which very much simplified the action, and the contact between the pins and the levers was brought to the front instead of the top of the barrel, so as to render the most important portion of the mechanism more easily accessible. These improvements were first introduced in the machine erected in Croydon church. There was still a weak point in the action; but it would be impossible to explain all the intermediate stages of improvement without the aid of a number of diagrams, and we must be content here with giving a description of the new carillon action in its most perfected form, as described in the following extract from the 'Engineer' of August 13, 1875, and which is rendered more intelligible by the accompanying diagram, representing in a simple manner the principle of the action, without encumbering it with details:—

Illustration

'The diagram is supposed to show the gear for working one hammer. It must be multiplied in proportion to the number of hammers, but the parts are all repetitions of each other.

'The musical barrel B is set with pins in the usual way. A is a cam wheel of very peculiar construction, operating on a lever C by what is

  1. To many listeners, not doubt, this irregularity, so far from detracting from the effect of this airy music, would seem rather pleasing from its old-fashioned sound and associations. This associations, however, though it may be reason for not interfering with old chilmes, is no reason for repeating the same defects in new ones.