Singing Bronze

A History of Carillon Music

Luc Rombouts (Author),

Category: History, History 1500-1800, History 1800-present, History 500-1500

Language: English

ISBN: 9789058679567

Publication date: May 23, 2014

€41.50 (including 6% VAT)

Buy Now

Size: 230 x 170 x mm

Stock item: 98314

Standard delivery time for print books:

For Belgium: 5 to 8 working days

For EU: 2 to 3 weeks

For other countries: 4 to 5 weeks

Category: History, History 1500-1800, History 1800-present, History 500-1500

Language: English

DOI: 10.11116/9789461661814

ISBN: 9789461661814

Publication date: May 23, 2014

€35.00 (including 6% VAT)

Buy Now


The fascinating history of bell music
The carillon, the world’s largest musical instrument, originated in the 16th century when inhabitants of the Low Countries started to produce music on bells in church and city towers. Today, carillon music still fills the soundscape of cities in Belgium and the Netherlands. Since the First World War, carillon music has become popular in the United States, where it adds a spiritual dimension to public parks and university campuses.

Singing Bronze opens up the fascinating world of the carillon to the reader. It tells the great stories of European and American carillon history: the quest for the perfect musical bell, the fate of carillons in times of revolt and war, the role of patrons such as John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Herbert Hoover in the development of American carillon culture, and the battle between singing bronze and carillon electronics.

Richly illustrated with original photographs and etchings, Singing Bronze tells how people developed, played, and enjoyed bell music. With this book, a fascinating history that is yet little known is made available for a wide public.


Chapter 1 – The magic of old bells
A fruit with pith
A world of sounds
Made in China
Jingle Bells

Chapter 2 – The time of God
The daily call to prayer
Europe of Bells
The appearance of the medieval bell
Church doctrine and popular belief
Tolling for political ends

Chapter 3 – The time of man
A day in the city
Tolling for special events
New bell casting techniques
The bell-founder in action

Chapter 4 – The bondage of time
Clocks in monasteries and cathedrals
Measuring time in the open air
The signal becomes music

Chapter 5 – A new musical instrument
Making music with bells
The terms beiaard and carillon
Further development of the new musical instrument
The first founders of carillon bells

Chapter 6 – Carillon music in a divided land
Why in the Low Countries?
Good and bad songs
Bells as commodity
The oldest carillon books

Chapter 7 – Pure bells
A blind nobleman with a keen sense of hearing
François Hemony
The Hemonys’ secret
Pieter Hemony
The Hemony legacy

Chapter 8 – Carillon music at the court
The successors of the Hemonys
The carillons of Peter the Great
Carillons for the young Prussians
Royal extravagance in Portugal

Chapter 9 – The Bach of the carillon
Peter Vanden Gheyn, monk and entrepreneur
Matthias Vanden Gheyn, virtuoso carillonneur
Andreas Jozef Vanden Gheyn, talented bell-founder
The descendants of the Vanden Gheyns

Chapter 10 – Panorama of the old carillon art
The bells
The automatic mechanism
Manual playing
The carillonneurs
The carillon repertoire
The audience
The fate of the French Low Countries

Chapter 11 – National Carillon
Carillon music riding the waves of politics
The confiscation of bells in the Southern Low Countries
Gradual restoration of the bell stock
The Northern Republic in the French era
Napoleon’s bell

Chapter 12 – The carillon as romantic symbol
The carillon, an old instrument
Literary interest in bells and carillons
The carillon at the service of nationalism

Chapter 13 – In search of the sound of the past
Bell-founding in the 19th century
Innovations in keyboard construction
Rediscovery of the art of bell tuning

Chapter 14 – A soul in peace, among the stars
A carillonneur with an interest in technique
Enchanting Monday evenings
The vision of the master
An American much interested in carillons

Chapter 15 – The broken bells of Flanders
War rages over Belgium
The voice of fallen carillons
Carillon war in the Netherlands
Bells of victory

Chapter 16 – Memorial bells
A school for carillonneurs
Carillon sounds across the Atlantic
Rockefeller and his Belgian carillonneurs
The race for bigger and heavier
Contours of a new carillon culture
New carillons in other parts of the world

Chapter 17 – New carillon construction in the Old Country
Belgian and English influence in the Netherlands
Protectionist reflexes in Belgium
Malaise among the Belgian bell-founders
Belgian carillons in the United States
The Mechelen carillon school during the interwar period

Chapter 18 – ‘The bells fight with us’
Nazi bells
Carillon music in occupied territory
The confiscation of bells in Europe

Chapter 19 – Dutch manufacture versus Carillon Americana
The return of the bells
Reconstruction in the Low Countries
A carillon without bells
Carillon battle in the Vatican pavilion

Chapter 20 – Innovations in the Old and the New World
American Beauty
The American carillon movement
Acid rain in Europe
Using the computer
Carillon music in the East

Chapter 21 – Panorama of the new carillon art
The carillons of the world
Carillon organizations
Carillonneurs and their audience
The diversity of carillon music
A future for the carillon

Sources and acknowledgements
Origin of the illustrations

Luc Rombouts

Luc Rombouts is universiteitsbeiaardier van Leuven en stadsbeiaardier van Tienen. Hij verricht onderzoek naar historische en sociale aspecten van de beiaard en publiceerde onder meer studies over achttiende-eeuwse Leuvense beiaardmuziek.

Museum 'Klok & Peel' Asten wil wereldwijd kenniscentrum voor luidklokken
Omroep Brabant, vrijdag 20 juni, Jan de Vries

Singing Bronze. A History of Carillon Music, zondag 22 juni, Bart Werts

'Singing Bronze' is een prachtig geïllustreerd boek over de geschiedenis van de beiaard. [...] Mensen die de techniek van dit fantastische instrument beter willen leren kennen, zitten dus zeker goed. Maar dit boek is zoveel meer. [...] Dit boek slaagt er perfect in die magie op te roepen. Als je het boek leest, kan je je de vreugde voorstellen van het volk dat de torens de vertrouwde melodieën hoorde zingen om te vieren dat de vijand verslagen was of dat massaal de straat op trok om te luisteren naar die ene virtuoze beiaardier Jef Denyn in Mechelen. De tragische verhalen van klokkentorens die gebombardeerd werden en in vlammen opgingen of klokken die in stukken geslagen werden om omgesmolten te worden tot wapens, grijpen echt bij de keel.
Carolien Coenen, Leven in Leuven

A book such as this in English has been long overdue. It traces the evolution of bells - and specifically of the bell instrument par excellence, the carillon - from ancient China right up to the present day. As such, it deserves a permanent place on the bookshelves of campanologists, carillonneurs and bell enthusiasts who will inevitably find themselves consulting it on a regular basis. For, in less than 400 pages, Luc Rombouts has managed to give us a comprehensive account of the amazing story of bells and their uses, musical and otherwise, down through the ages.
Adrian Gebruers, A book long overdue,

I watched and listened, for the first time listening to what it is that makes a bell a, well, a bell (well!). Luc is right: it's the overtones, what he calls the "partial notes," that catch your attention. I had been immersed in his book for a few days, and all of a sudden the bellness of it all made sense. The "bong" of this or any other bell is not just a single tone. It is full, sensuous, complex in character, complex in duration, rich in the dying fall. I listened for the first time as the author would want me to listen.
L. W. Milam,

Beiaardier Luc Rombouts ontvangt provinciale prijs
Luc Rombouts, verbonden aan de KU Leuven en zelf beiaardier van Tienen, is de laureaat van de Provinciale Prijs voor Geschiedenis en Volkskunde 2014 voor zijn lijvige publicatie 'Zingend brons. 500 jaar beiaardmuziek in de Lage Landen en de Nieuwe Wereld'.
In haar verslag omschrijft de jury, samengesteld uit vijf leden van de Provinciale Commissie voor Geschiedenis en Volkskunde, het werk als origineel, diepgaand, vér-reikend, wetenschappelijk gefundeerd, rijk aan inhoud en 'melodieus van voorslag tot nagalm'. Opvallend daarbij zijn ook de geleerdheid van de auteur, het virtuoos taalgebruik, de wetenschappelijke degelijkheid en het feit dat het boek voor een breed publiek toegankelijk is. Het is niet de eerste keer dat de auteur met deze publicatie in de prijzen valt. Zijn werk werd in 2011 nog bekroond met de Visser Neerlandia-

Related titles