[Bell Historians] Bags of spanners

Carl S Zimmerman csz_stl at s...
Tue Aug 3 04:48:11 BST 2004

Wish I'd known about the chime at Kouvola a few weeks ago--I spent 
two hours on the station platform waiting for a train north to see 
the bells of Vaskikello. The weather was fine, and I could probably 
have walked to the council office and back in that time, though from 
the station I didn't hear any clock strikes.

The next day, I heard the two bells of the cathedral in Kuopio, and I 
would have to say that your description would fit their sound as 
well. The interval between them was a vague approximation to a major 
third. I did find out that these two bells were cast at different 
times around the middle of the 19th c., which wasn't a particularly 
good time for bells anywhere in the world.

I think there are no bellfoundries left in Finland any more, except 
for the new one at Vaskikello, where they don't make anything larger 
than about 20 kg.

Part of the answer to your question may lie in the fact that Finland 
has been influenced by the Orthodox tradition of Russia, wherein 
collections of un-tuned bells are rung in rhythmic patterns totally 
unrelated to western melody. What sounds to our ears like "a bad 
accident in a metal works" might actually be very pleasing to someone 
raised in the eastern tradition. Mind you, I'm not trying to defend 
that sound--just to suggest an alternative viewpoint. But 
bellfounders working under that tradition would have had no incentive 
to "improve" the sound of their bells according to western standards.


At 15:18 +0100 2004/08/02, Peter Whisker wrote:
>Having just returned from Finland, we were acquainted with their bells
>which, at best, sound like a bag of spanners or iron bars being dropped onto
>concrete. At worst, they are indescribable. We had a first encounter with
>the two bells at Savonlinna Cathedral and the two at nearby Kerimaki church
>(the largest wooden church in the world).
>However, the carillon in the fairly modern council offices at Kouvola is an
>"excellent" example. Twelve bells struck by the clock (hammers or pulled
>clapper, not sure which). We heard a clang at 12:45 which sounded like the
>iron bar being dropped, so while we had our lunch we awaited the 1pm
>chimes - which was unfortunate really as our ears were seriously assaulted!.
>The cacophony sounded like a bad accident in a metal works.
>Is there any reason on earth why bells in this part of the world are so
>untuned or is it just a case of masochism/sadism by the founders?

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