Dept. of Mech. Eng., Univ. of Calgary, 2500 University Dr. N.W., Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
Producing the sound of a large bell in an orchestral setting is considered to be one of the most significant unsolved problems of the percussionist. A real bell of the proper frequency range is too large to control in performance and too cumbersome to suspend or transport. The use of bell plates in place of actual bells has had limited success due to the difficulties encountered in producing accurate pitch, sufficient amplitude, and a reasonable frequency response. This paper is based on a novel, multidisciplinary approach that has resulted in the production of bell plates with marked improvement in the most problematic areas. The musical value of the research has been demonstrated by two bell plates designed to produce the sound of distant church bells in the final movement of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. The plates were used in performances by both the Calgary Philharmonic and the Vancouver Symphony.