I recently (eight months ago) acquired a 1961 Schulmerich Bell
instrument composed of two 5-octave sets of bells. One set is consists
of 61 steel bars with solenoid strikers and magnetic pickups. The bars
are specially ground and fixed with brass collars, the result being that
the first four partials of each bar are in octave relationship.
The second set of bells are brass rods, two per resultant tone,
specially engineered to mimic the sound of cast bell carillons of the
Flemish variety -- that is, having a characteristic minor third partial.
Both sets are controlled by a standard 7/5 keyboard [7 white & 5 black
keys] and amplified with tube amplifiers through monstrous outdoor PA
speakers. It also includes a piano-roll playing mechanism and timers,
and complete with a dozen or so paper rolls. It was originally in-
stalled at a cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida, and then it fell into
the hands of Just Intonation composer Denny Genovese. Denny stored the
instrument for seven years until I arrived and became enamored with it.
I am restoring the instrument to working order and developing a new
instrument that makes use of some of the old hardware. The new instru-
ment will be a bell instrument with 49 tones to the octave, using the
solenoids from the old bells to strike specially tuned steel bars. The
two-octave span (99 bars) will be in a system of Just Intonation, making
use of a matrix of harmonic and sub-harmonic scales.
The custom keyboard will be a 8x16 matrix. I hope eventually to be able
to control the instrument with a custom matrix MIDI keyboard (allowing
the instrument to be controlled by a computer based sequencer also);
however, finances are a serious obstacle to realizing that fantasy.
Since clangorous instruments are characterized by inharmonic partials,
I developed an accurate tuning method for steel bars whereby the 2nd
partial is in a 3:1 frequency relationship with the first partial,
and the third partial is in a 5:1 relationship. I will then position
solenoids and dampers so as to emphasize the first three partials and
attenuate the higher partials.
The tuning method was derived largely from researching the old patents
on tuning metallic bars and tubes, for use in the carillon-like bell
instruments that were manufactured in the 1940s to 1960s. In my re-
search efforts I had attempted to mimic the tuning methods of the
original bars, but found the precision required was beyond my abilities
and simple tools.
I would be happy to elaborate on the various aspects of the project and
would appreciate any suggestions (and encouragement!).
South East Just Intonation Society
[ Welcome to MMD, Darren. Your project is really interesting.
[ I hope that you will write at some point about your tuning methods.
[ We can put explanatory drawings and photos at the MMD web site.
[ I'd especially like to know the details of the steel bar with
[ strong octave partials. I bet that has a neat sound ! -- Robbie