Rebirth and enlargement of a great carillon: Indiana University

June 24, 2022
Metz Bicentennial Carillon
The new tower for the Metz Bicentennial Carillon.

John Gouwens began his study of carillon at Indiana University with Linda Walker Pointer. He continued his carillon activity when he transferred to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in organ. He earned his master’s degree in organ at the University of Kansas, though his main priority in that choice was to pursue carillon study with Albert Gerken.

He served for thirty-nine years as organist and carillonneur at Culver Academies, Culver, Indiana. His musical activities continue today as organist and choirmaster at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church and as organist, choirmaster, and carillonneur at The Presbyterian Church, both in La Porte, Indiana. Throughout his career, he has been active as a performer in North America and in Europe, as well as being a composer of carillon music. His method book, Playing the Carillon: An Introductory Method, is in use throughout North America and abroad.

The idea for the carillon

The idea of having a carillon on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington was the inspiration of Herman B. Wells (1902–2000). Wells was the eleventh president of Indiana University, serving from 1938 to 1962; thereafter, he became the first chancellor for the university, serving from 1962 until his death in 2000. During his presidency, the student body of the university nearly tripled in size. Among his many accomplishments were putting an end to segregation and racist practices at the university, staunchly defending academic freedom in research (including some highly controversial but groundbreaking studies), establishing a system of extension campuses of the university throughout the state, and building what became one of the foremost schools of music in the country.

Dr. Arthur R. Metz (1887–1963), Class of 1909, became a prominent surgeon in the Chicago area, serving as personal physician to Philip Wrigley (of the Wrigley Corporation) and team doctor to the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Dr. Metz was a generous donor to the university, establishing a foundation at Indiana University that created substantial scholarships for outstanding students. Well after Dr. Metz’s passing, Herman Wells, in his position on the board of the Metz Foundation, proposed that the time had come for a beautiful, tangible contribution to the campus that could be appreciated and enjoyed by all.

By this time, the Metz Foundation was secure in its ability to fund very generous scholarships. Over the years since, the investments have grown, and what was once a single scholarship now amounts to more than 40 scholarships, as well as funding a number of other programs and facilities on campus. Mr. Wells enthusiastically advocated for the foundation to donate a carillon as a memorial to Dr. Metz, and the foundation agreed.

A committee of select School of Music administrators traveled to Europe to visit several carillon installations and came away particularly impressed with the 61-bell carillon in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, built by Royal Eijsbouts Klokkengieterij, bell foundry of Asten, the Netherlands. The committee heard it demonstrated by the young Dutch carillonneur Arie Abbenes, who made a strong impression on them as well. They ordered essentially an identical carillon, 61 bells, starting from a low B-flat of 7,648 pounds and a diameter of 69.3 inches. The inclusion of a low B-flat, without a low B or low C-sharp, follows the European tendency to favor including the B-flat as an extra bass note, in the manner of the carillon of Saint Rombout’s Cathedral in Mechelen, Belgium, which to this day remains an important center for the carillon profession. The majority of “concert-sized” carillons have a range of four octaves, often still including the low B-flat: a 49-bell instrument, or 50 if a low C-sharp is also included. The fifth octave of bells is called for far less often. An unusual feature of the Metz Carillon is that every bell, even the smallest one (weighing 17.8 pounds), has an inscription with a quote from a noted philosopher, poet, or other prominent thinker.

The original tower

A freestanding 91-foot tower was built on the northeast side of the campus, overlooking it at the highest point in Bloomington (Picture 1). The tower of poured concrete reflected the “brutalist” style of architecture of the era, with large openings on all sides of the stairway. As part of that look, the imprints of the concrete molds and metal portions of the rebar used were visible throughout the tower. The carillon had a roof and corners, but otherwise was completely open to the elements. The arrangement of bells favored visual effect, rather than musical results.

There was a “façade” of six bells on each of its four sides, thus making up most of the bottom two octaves of the carillon. The transmission (mechanism) was situated toward the west side of the tower, and the remaining 37 bells were arranged in rows—essentially a “wall” of bells all in one plane—situated very close to the transmission. The upper bells therefore had a minimum of excess movement in the wires when they were played, but the lower bells, especially those situated on the east face of the tower, had horizontal wires up to ten feet in length. Playing one of the bells on that side often resulted in the wire oscillating up and down for more than 30 seconds after a note was played. This made the bells on that side unwieldy to play. Furthermore, the bells on each of the façades tended to “stick out” when heard from that side, and bells on the opposite side were, while not muffled outright, certainly not balanced in effect.

The frame was treated with a heavy galvanization that served well in the long run for preserving the structural beams, but it was not common practice at the time to use stainless steel (or otherwise rust-resistant) bolts to hold the structure together. As bolts deteriorated and as the pads between the bells and the framework compressed over time, moisture easily made its way into the crownstaples (clapper assemblies) and into the bolts holding up the bells as well as bolts holding the beams together. By the time the instrument was just ten years old, the threads on the tops of bolts had worn away to the point that one could no longer undo any bolts to replace isolation pads between the frame and the bells. With no screening to keep out birds, there were also issues with bird droppings, sometimes quite an accumulation of them on certain bells (Picture 2).

While the high placement of the tower made it visible over nearly all of the campus, it actually did not serve music well. Even when the air was calm on most of the campus, the area around the tower was subject to wind gusts, to the point that the effect on the action was noticeable to the player, and the listener on the ground had much interference with the dynamic effect of the instrument. The gusts often created Doppler effects, as the changes in wind direction distorted the perceived pitch of the bells. The only buildings close by were those devoted to married student housing and several fraternity and sorority houses. Such a location was too obscure to have much impact on life in the center of campus.

The Music Addition carillon

When the Metz Carillon was installed, Eijsbouts offered to provide a higher-pitched, smaller carillon at a very reasonable price. At that time, the Eijsbouts company had a practice of keeping a three-octave carillon of a standardized design in stock, with a layout that was particularly suited to being installed on a truck bed as a traveling carillon. This enabled them to fill requests for such instruments quickly and easily. To enable a considerably larger amount of repertoire to be playable on it, Eijsbouts offered to provide such a carillon, but with the range expanded from the standard 35 bells (three octaves with no low C-sharp or D-sharp) to 42 bells, 3-1⁄2 octaves. All of this was pitched a full octave above concert pitch.

This instrument was installed at the same time as the Metz Carillon, placed on the roof of what was then known as the Music Annex, a large addition (from 1962) to the main building of the Indiana University School of Music. Two practice consoles were also provided at the time, but they were so poorly constructed that in short order many notes would not play. Both teaching and practicing ended up happening live on the bells of the carillon of the Music Annex (now known as the Music Addition). The framework of this carillon did not have the galvanization treatment that had been applied to the Metz Carillon, and with no roof or protection of any kind it deteriorated severely over time. Over the years, this carillon, despite the decay that was happening, remained remarkably playable, mostly because it was played often enough to keep its transmission limber (and due in particular to considerable wear on the nylon bushings holding the roller bars in the carillon transmission). Because that carillon is situated near most of the university’s performance halls, it is to this day frequently played prior to operas and symphony concerts happening nearby. That instrument has also been recently enlarged and fitted with a new console, transmission, and clappers, but the details of that project fall outside of the scope of this article.

Dedication and ongoing activity

While the tower was completed in 1970, it was not until the following year that Arie Abbenes played the dedication recital for the completed carillon. The program included a four-movement work by Dutch carillonneur-composer Wim Franken, which had been written for the dedication of the Eindhoven carillon, thus using the fifth octave of bells actively. Mr. Abbenes was engaged to serve as university carillonneur for the school year 1971–1972, but returned to his positions over in the Netherlands (having been on leave of absence) the following year.

In the years that followed, there was sporadic activity. For a while, former students of Abbenes were paid a stipend to present weekly recitals on the carillon. In the school year 1976–1977, another of Abbenes’s former students, Linda Walker (now Pointer), returning from a scholarship for overseas study, resumed her doctoral studies in organ, and was hired as a graduate teaching assistant, with her assignment being to teach carillon students and continue presenting weekly recitals during the school year. In Europe, she studied at and graduated from the Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, Belgium. She continued to serve Indiana University as teacher and carillonneur from 1976 to 1983, thereafter moving to positions in Alabama and Florida, where she continued her activity as a carillonneur for several years.

Over the years, former students of Linda Walker Pointer were engaged as graduate assistants while pursuing graduate degrees in organ, first Tony Norris (1984–1985) and then Brian Swager (1987–1996). Like Pointer, Brian Swager was returning from European studies, graduating from the Royal Carillon School in Mechelen in 1986. He, too, was initially resuming doctoral studies in organ, completing that degree in 1994. He continued as carillonneur and teacher in what was elevated to a faculty position (lecturer).

Since Brian Swager’s departure, carillon activity at Indiana University has been intermittent. Starting in 2003, I was brought in occasionally, sometimes several times per year, chiefly to play on the Metz Carillon, but also to teach any students who were interested, and to play somewhat informally on the Music Addition carillon. On all of those visits, I carried out what might best be termed as “life support” maintenance on both carillons, keeping the action limber, regulating the touch on both instruments, and reshaping clappers as needed to address the harsh sound that comes from long-term wear.

Concerns about the integrity of the concrete in the Metz Carillon tower were raised in 2013, but on inspection, university architects raised greater concerns about the low railings and the openness of the stairway, which were not in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, and activity at the Metz Carillon was brought to a halt until the facilities department of Jacobs School of Music (as the school was retitled in 2005 after a very large gift from the Jacobs family vastly expanded the school’s resources for scholarships, endowed staff positions, and overall programming) installed far better screening and railings to the stairway. Carillon recitals resumed in the fall of 2015.

A bright prospect at last

Indiana University was founded on January 20, 1820. By 2015, Michael McRobbie, eighteenth president of Indiana University, was formulating plans to celebrate in numerous noteworthy and tangible ways the impending bicentennial of the founding of the university. He had been familiar with the impressive carillon of Canberra, Australia, and was aware of the host of problems surrounding the Metz Carillon at that time. He envisioned placing the carillon in a new tower at a central location of campus, where it could be an integral part of daily life. This vision included expanding it to a “grand carillon.” (See below on that topic.)

The old IU stadium, dating from 1925, was in a central location on campus, but for football games was replaced in 1960 with a new stadium on the far north end of campus. The old stadium site, situated just west of the main library (now dubbed Wells Library), was relegated to lesser events, such as the “Little 500” annual bicycle race. That stadium deteriorated to the point that it was ultimately demolished. In the 1980s, work began on building a beautiful arboretum in its place. (The building devoted to health, physical education, and recreation, along with some playing fields, is still situated just west of the arboretum.) Since this mostly tranquil spot still has much foot traffic going from place to place on campus, it was an obvious location to put a carillon, at a considerable distance from automotive traffic but within hearing of a great deal of the university community.

Grand carillon?

While there is not a formal definition of the term “grand carillon,” a particularly impressive repertoire emerged, particularly in the 1950s and beyond, for carillons possessing bells extending to a low G of approximately five to six tons. To be a proper “grand carillon” for that repertoire, the instrument must be pitched in “concert C” or lower and must be chromatic down to that low G (with the possible exception of the low G-sharp), and from low C up must have at least four octaves. The grand carillon repertoire was created especially for the carillons at the University of Kansas, the Washington National Cathedral, the University of Chicago, and Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, among a few others. The Canberra instrument was essentially a twin to the Kansas instrument, so indeed President McRobbie had heard just how impressive such an instrument can be. Worldwide, there are presently twenty-eight “grand carillons,” nineteen of which are in the United States. Heretofore, there were none in Indiana, although there are three in Michigan and four in Illinois. An additional octave of treble bells above the usual 53–54-bell grand carillon range is not essential to that repertoire, but it is worth noting that just under half of the above grand carillons (14) have a full octave or more of additional treble bells.

Defining the project

With President McRobbie’s backing, funding was arranged, and the planning of the project moved forward. The Eijsbouts bell foundry has over the years dramatically improved the design and durability of its instruments, and as the largest bell foundry, they were clearly in the best position to undertake a project of this scope. Naturally, they were also the bell foundry most able to add new bells compatible with the existing instrument.

The design of the tower and overall coordination of the project was entrusted to Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects (now Browning Day) of Indianapolis, Indiana. Jonathan Hess, principal and chairman of the board of the company, has served as official architect for building projects at Indiana University for many years. Dave Long, senior project manager, took the lead on coordinating the design of the tower. Architect Susan T. Rodriguez of New York City also participated in the design team at President McRobbie’s request, particularly to provide innovative ideas for the tower and its setting. I was hired by Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf (BDMD) as consultant to the project to ensure that the tower itself would provide for an ideal facility for the carillon, and at the same time to work with the bell foundry to create an outstanding example of the bell founders’ art. The Eijsbouts team and I were overjoyed that we got to have much input into the design of the tower. Opportunities to provide such an ideal design and situation for a carillon are rare indeed, and we are all very glad it was possible!

Discussion of the range of the enlarged carillon was undertaken with the administration of the Jacobs School of Music. The resulting decision was to cast four new bells, providing the low C-sharp, B, A, and low G needed for the grand carillon repertoire. The only missing chromatic note in the range would be the low G-sharp, which indeed is very rarely used and would have added considerable expense to include. This brought the instrument to a total of 65 bells. The low G weighs 12,381 pounds and has a diameter of 82.8 inches. It was noted that the inscriptions on the original 61 bells were all quotations by men. The new bells are inscribed with quotations from Sappho, Hildegard of Bingen, Emily Dickinson, and Maya Angelou.

As recommended by Eijsbouts, we determined that the best results would be obtained by having all the bells of the existing instrument shipped back to the Eijsbouts bell foundry for the project. Doing so ensured that the tuning and character of the new bells would be an ideal match for the existing instrument. Also, this ensured that all clappers and fittings for hanging the bells would fit as anticipated. The opportunity was taken to clean and buff the bells at the foundry, so that the entire instrument would have a “like new” look when completed.

On September 23, 2017, I gave a farewell recital on the instrument in its original tower and setting. By this time, there were problems with chunks of concrete falling from the tower, and the tower was surrounded by a construction fence for the protection of the public; indeed, the concerns that had been raised about the integrity of the concrete proved to be well founded. In October 2017 Eijsbouts staff came to dismantle the instrument and ship the bells to Asten. With the bolts holding everything together so severely rusted (Picture 3), the efficient way to take the instrument down was to cut sections of beams and take the bells and the beams holding them down together. The tower itself was demolished in April 2018.

Design and mechanical considerations

For many years, it was common for carillon bells to be hung on straight, horizontal beams, often resulting in fairly long rows of bells (20 feet or more). When the transmission (mechanism of the instrument) is centered in the frame, it is possible to arrange the bells so that all but the largest few are close to the transmission, and the movement is transferred to the bells through roller bars. Roller bars (heavier duty, but otherwise similar to roller bars in tracker organs) provide a solid means of conveying movement. In contrast, when horizontal distances are handled with long wires, the wires tend to sag and to allow a considerable amount of excess movement. As installed in 1971, the upper 37 bells were less than two feet away from the roller bars. Since the transmission (along with the upper bells) was situated on the west side of the tower, there were some very long and quite problematic horizontal wires going to the larger bells that were hung on the north, south, and especially the east sides. Inevitably, roller bars add to the mass of the transmission to each note, considerably increasing the inertia the player must manage. An additional disadvantage is that roller bars can also bend and twist when their notes are played, though this is less of a problem for the player than long horizontal wires.

It is far more common today to build a carillon with few or no roller bars, relying instead on directed tumblers, placed just above the vertical wires. That solution does not work very well if the bells are still arranged in long, straight beams because the horizontal wires to the bells on the far ends must be excessively long, allowing much extraneous motion. When the bells are arranged in a radial (circular or hexagonal) configuration (Picture 4), so that all the bells are close to their tumblers, horizontal wire lengths and the overall mass of the transmission can be kept to a minimum, and the instrument is much more responsive to play.

In Picture 5, one can see how the directed tumbler is designed. The stalk to the right is inserted into the mounting block above it. The pivot (using in this case a sealed ball-bearing unit) is held out away from the stalk, so that the latter is directly in line with the vertical wire coming up from the console below. As the instrument is assembled, each tumbler can be easily turned so that it is directly pointing toward its bell. From the vertical arm of the tumbler, a horizontal wire connects to the tail of the clapper. Whichever way the tumbler is turned, the hole on the horizontal arm to which the vertical wire connects will be in the same place, centered below the mounting stalk. The five holes on the vertical arm allow some adjustment to the leverage, the second hole from the top being exactly equal in travel with the connection point on the horizontal arm.

Great care was taken in the design of this carillon to keep the horizontal wires as short as possible. The smallest bells are the ones most sensitive to any factors that might cause the clappers to dwell too long on the wall of the bells (potentially dampening the ring of the bells considerably), and in smaller bells (with lighter clappers) the added weight of long vertical wires considerably aggravates that problem. Therefore, it is best practice to place the smallest bells closest to the console, but it is important to have them high enough above the roof of the playing cabin (the room in which the player is seated at the console) so that the sound is not blocked from any direction. The ideal is to have a direct line of sight from every bell—especially from every small bell—to the listener below.

It is desirable to avoid having any of the bells at great vertical distances from the console, both for mechanical reasons and because it becomes challenging for the player to determine balance when some bells are significantly farther away. The engineer’s drawing (Picture 6) shows the arrangement of treble and midrange bells. Nineteen of the smallest trebles are hung below the floor level (open grating) on an elliptical frame, toward the east side of the console, since that is where the keys and transmission are for the smaller bells. Above that is a hexagonal frame with 34 midrange bells, arranged in three tiers, the largest being on the top tier.

Major revision to the tower design

The original plan was for the tower to reach a total height of 162 feet, with the 12 largest bells placed at the bottom of the instrument (78 feet above ground level), the playing cabin being above (at 96 feet), and the treble bells above that, starting 113 feet above ground level. Due largely to a change in tariff laws that impacted importing some of the building materials, contractors’ bids for building the tower came in considerably higher than expected, leading to major changes in the design and layout of the tower.

The architects kept the elegant proportions of the original design while making the tower shorter overall and engineering several changes to reduce costs. The expense of providing a stairway to the playing cabin was a significant consideration, and at the request of the architects, the design of the carillon was changed, placing the playing cabin at the bottom of the instrument. (All access above that level is by means of permanently installed straight ladders.)

Because it was critically important to keep the distances between the smallest bells and the console to a minimum, the design of the framework and transmission for bells 13 through 65 (counting from the bottom) was unchanged; therefore, the largest 12 bells then had to be placed higher in the tower than the rest of the instrument. With the larger, heavier clappers in those largest bells, the longer vertical wires are far less of a problem than they would have been with smaller bells, but it is definitely more difficult for the carillonneur to judge the balance when playing the bass bells than it would have been with those bells being just below the playing cabin.

On the positive side, this redesign placed the whole instrument close enough to the ground that very soft playing may be heard clearly, and fortissimo playing is indeed impressive, though never overbearing. The bells are situated from 68 feet to 103 feet above ground level, rather than 78 feet to 124 feet. Picture 7 shows the original plan, with the bass bells occupying a lower belfry level. Originally, the wires for the bass bells were either going to be run around the exterior of the playing cabin (somewhat visible in the middle of Picture 7) or through the floor of the playing cabin. The floor opening and the space in the center of the hexagonal frame in the hub above the playing cabin would easily accommodate the wires for the 34 bells placed on that frame. With the larger bells now going above that level, an additional set of roller bars was needed to bring the wires for the bass bells into that same space allocated for the wires and mechanism for the midrange. (That frame is visible as the multi-colored structure just above the playing cabin in Picture 8.)

In Picture 9, the frame of the tower is shown under construction. A relatively compact central spiral staircase runs from ground level to the first structural hub at 33 feet above ground. A wider, sweeping circular stairway connects from that hub to the level of the playing cabin at 51 feet. A smaller frame, not extending all the way to the exterior framework, is for the roof of the playing cabin (at 59 feet). The next hub, at 69 feet, is where 19 small bells are hung just below it and 34 midrange bells are arranged in a hexagonal frame atop that hub. In the revised design two more large bells are placed above the midrange frame, with the remaining ten large bells in a larger hexagonal arrangement above the hub at 87 feet. The second hub from the top (at 105 feet) holds the ceiling above the bells, with reflective panels above the bell frame itself and a membrane roof above the center. The space from that roof to the top hub (at 123 feet) is open. The tips of the six piers are 127 feet, 9 inches above ground.

Carillons are in general well served by being enclosed in louvers, which blend the sound of the bells, helping the bells on all sides to be heard in an even balance from any side of the tower. The combination of the new clappers and the acoustics of the tower produces a much richer, warmer sound than the carillon had previously. (In the 1971 installation, the sound of the carillon was notably “cold” and “glassy” in effect.) Louvers also reduce the amount of water that reaches the frame and the transmission. Furthermore, louvers help direct sound better toward good listening areas.

So successful is that aspect of the acoustics that the carillon may be clearly heard even when standing just two feet from the walls of the base of the tower, and there is no point on the surrounding lawn where any bell is either stifled or over prominent due to its position in the tower. The original plan for the tower was to make the louvers of strong glass, also mounting them so that they could be opened and closed electrically. When the tower plan was revised to reduce costs, that idea was abandoned in favor of fixed, aluminum louvers, at approximately a 45-degree angle.

Finding a better way to build a carillon

For all of us involved in the project, we were determined to seek out new and often innovative ways to build a carillon that reflected the best design, materials, and results possible. The Eijsbouts bell foundry is by far the largest bell founding company worldwide, and their staff includes six design engineers. For this project, I expressly requested to work with Matty Bergers. Matty had been the sole design engineer with Petit & Fritsen. When the Petit & Fritsen bell foundry in Aarle-Rixtel closed in 2014, Eijsbouts acquired the company, and Matty was one of several from Petit & Fritsen who then joined the Eijsbouts company in Asten. I was impressed by his practical, innovative designs, as well as his tenacious dedication to finding the best possible solution to the technical challenges of building a fine carillon. A project of this magnitude presented an opportunity to make many improvements to how a carillon is built, bringing together my lifelong study of best practice for carillon building, Matty’s ideas and meticulous work, and input from sales representative and engineer Henk van Blooijs as well as others on the Eijsbouts staff.

In recent years, Eijsbouts has made many improvements in the quality of their building. For a long time, Eijsbouts, and to a lesser extent Petit & Fritsen, tended to make their crownstaples with the pivot of the clapper being quite close to the (side) wall of the bell. In fact, at one point, one of those founders used to employ an adjustment to the position of that pivot as a means to reduce or increase the weight the player encountered when playing it. As a result, the clapper travel tended to “scrape” and reiterate as it contacted the bell, making for a dull, “thuddy” sound. That issue was aggravated by the fact that gravity exerted relatively little pull on the clapper to drop back away from the bell.

Ideally, having the clapper pivot more toward the center, and in some cases lowered a bit from the inside top of the bell, positions a clapper to contact the bell at a right angle, making a quick contact, then bouncing off the bell. At my request, we had the clappers designed so this would be the case. Pictures 10 and 11 show the contrast between the original installation and the new one. Also, the newer photo shows the return spring positioned just behind the clapper. The installation was designed so that with the entire instrument, it was possible to install either a return spring or a “helper” spring to every bell. The return springs are used mostly on smaller bells and are necessary to compensate for the weight of the transmission (often heavier than the smaller clappers), ensuring that the note (and key) will quickly return to a “ready” position. In the lower range, “helper” springs are placed near the transmission (in this case, tumblers), pulling in the same direction that the player is pulling, to make it easier to play bells with heavier clappers and particularly to overcome inertia to set the clappers in motion.

In the late 1990s, Eijsbouts began making clappers in which the shaft of the clapper is threaded and screwed into a socket in the crownstaple assembly. This design permits fine height adjustments to where the clapper contacts the bell on installation, but more importantly, when the clapper wears from use, it is possible to rotate it a few degrees to get a fresh strike spot. (The alternative is using a metal file to reshape the clapper in its fixed position. When done repeatedly, a flat area eventually becomes large enough that it is impossible to reshape enough to recover the original, mellower sound.) Various adjustable clapper designs have been used somewhat experimentally since the early 1950s, though the majority of bell founders active today incorporate this feature into their carillon clappers as a standard practice. The threads and the locknut are visible in Picture 11.

Starting in 2017, Eijsbouts began using heavier clappers, having observed that a clapper with more mass brings out a fuller, warmer sound from the instrument. To illustrate the difference, the original clapper for the largest bell in 1971 was 165 pounds. The same bell is now struck with a clapper where the weight of the clapper ball (not counting the weight of the shaft) is 238 pounds. Low G is struck with a clapper where the ball is 326 pounds. Eijsbouts also long ago stopped using the manganese alloy they used in their older clappers in favor of cast iron clappers, a more traditional material that has stood the test of time well. As late as 2003, Eijsbouts and Petit & Fritsen were both still using nylon as bushing material at many points where clapper pivots and wire connections were made. I actually had a role in changing that.

When the Petit & Fritsen carillon for the Presbyterian Church of La Porte, Indiana, was under construction (I was consultant), I asked Matty Bergers and Frank Fritsen why they were still using nylon rather than Delrin®, another DuPont self-lubricating plastic, as a bushing material throughout their instruments. I pointed out the way nylon bushing blocks on both IU carillons had cracked over time and shown a great deal of wear. Delrin® is less prone to absorbing water, is more resistant to temperature variations and sunlight, and tends to show far less wear, while still making for a smooth-running surface. (The durability of the material has certainly proven itself over many years as a material for harpsichord jacks and plectra.) The La Porte carillon was the first to have Delrin® used throughout. Eijsbouts followed suit, as Delrin® is now in use for all sorts of connections, including bushings on the coupling between pedals and manuals.

Some Dutch carillon consultants require that the horizontal wires for larger bells be nearly parallel to the floor, making an obtuse angle between the clapper tail and the wire. Throughout this instrument, we arranged for all wire connections to be at right angles—clappers at a right angle to the surface of the bell upon contact, and the levers on the tumblers at right angles to the wires halfway through the stroke, so the player has good, nuanced control over the behavior of the clapper throughout the stroke. In those details, the configuration of the transmission resembles the principles followed by the English bell founders Taylor and Gillett & Johnston, as well as the American companies Verdin, Meeks & Watson, and Sunderlin.

Not surprisingly, the larger clappers and the positions of clappers and tumblers considerably changed where the transition was made between return springs and helper springs. In a typical Eijsbouts installation, with the wire angles conforming to modern Dutch norms, helper springs are normally needed only up to the “middle C” bell (bell #13 in a C-compass carillon, bell #17 on the Metz Bicentennial Carillon). We ended up using helper springs all the way up to bell #30 (c-sharp more than an octave above “middle C”). Some extra-sturdy brackets had to be added to the pedals and the tumblers for the largest bells in the carillon, but even so, we also had to compromise a bit in the position of the clappers on the six largest bells, which are a bit closer to the bell wall than I consider ideal. That said, the clapper positioning, and even more, the clappers themselves and the sound they produce are greatly improved compared to the original configuration of 1971.

New developments introduced in this carillon

When bells are mounted on metal framework, it is necessary to pad them, both to allow the bells to vibrate more freely and to prevent highly undesirable extraneous vibrations that can happen when the bells directly touch metal framework. In recent decades, many bell founders including Eijsbouts have used neoprene padding for this purpose. Neoprene offers the desirable amount of softness while still being sufficiently firm to be effective, but the problem with that material is that in cold weather, it deteriorates quickly. That point was particularly driven home on a carillon I encountered in Pennsylvania about two years after a major renovation had been done on it—more than 20 of the neoprene washers used to isolate the bells from the heads of the bolts holding them had already split and dropped to the floor!

Needing to find a pliable but more durable material to pad the feet of the framework, where it rested on the floor, and to pad the heads of the bolts and crownstaples up inside the bells, we (Eijsbouts, the architects, and I) conducted some research and ultimately settled on my suggestion of using EPDM rubber. EPDM is a synthetic rubber, made mostly from ethylene and propylene, derived from oil and natural gas. EPDM rubber is used as gasket material in bridges, in liners for swimming pools, and for rubber roofing, where it has a life expectancy of 50 years, so it is made to endure moisture, sunlight, and wide variations in temperature. It turned out that when Eijsbouts ordered the rubber, it was no more expensive than the neoprene they had been using. Eijsbouts has continued to use EPDM rubber in all their carillon work since this project.

For padding between the bells and the framework above them, I had specified a time-honored, traditional solution of using wood pads; European oak was used for this purpose. Matty Bergers designed a special way of mounting the wood that would hold it in place effectively over the long run. Picture 12 shows the beam for holding one of the larger bells (shown upside down for easy viewing). The wood pad is drilled to accommodate the bell suspension bolts and crownstaple, mounted beneath a metal plate, with a metal rim around the outside. With that design, even if the wood at some later date splits, it is nevertheless held in place and still serves its function isolating the bell from the framework. As the wood pad is on the bottom (with only the bell below it), moisture can freely drain from below it. Picture 13 shows a similar beam (still upside down), demonstrating how the wood pad is contained. As can be seen in Picture 13, the rim around the oak pads is vented, so that water is not trapped on top of them, either. Further noteworthy in Picture 13, where the beam joins the plate (which is where sections of the hexagonal frame are fastened together) there is an open space in the beam to facilitate the process of galvanization of the frame. The metal easily flows around the interior as well as the exterior of each beam when it is dipped.

A special challenge with the 1971 treble bells is that for those high-pitched bells, the profile (shape) of each is unusually squat and thick walled, leaving almost no space for a crownstaple inside. (It bears mentioning that in newer Eijsbouts carillons, the bells for such high notes are more traditional, “campaniform” in shape.) In the 1971 installation, the six smallest bells were fitted with clappers that were not inside the bells at all, but rather, came up from below to strike the bells. Picture 14 shows that arrangement, and Picture 15 shows the drawing in which a special crownstaple was designed to fit in that tiny space, with the pivot and the clapper itself positioned lower, so that, unlike the original arrangement, the clappers of even this smallest bell would travel and operate normally. The tight space is noticeable in Picture 16, and Picture 17 shows the bell as installed in the tower. The wooden bell pad and the vented bracketing holding it are visible just above the bell.

While tradition and practice have both demonstrated that the best tonal results are obtained from iron clappers (heat treated, so that the clappers will wear from use without introducing such wear on the bells), I was aware that some bell founders (though not the Continental European ones) had made clappers using a spheroidal graphite (SG) iron. SG iron is more ductile (more elastic in shape), offering the advantage of being less brittle and less likely to deform from use. It was likely to hold its shape better than conventional “gray iron” without injuring the bell, since the clapper in fact would be absorbing the impact and returning to its original shape immediately. This theory had been tested in a project on the carillon at Culver Academies, Culver, Indiana, in 2016, where we replaced the original one-piece (non-adjustable) bass clappers with new, rotatable clappers of SG iron, heat treated to the desired level of softness. Remarkably, it had not been necessary, so far, to turn those clappers at all, so the field test had already proven that superior results were possible with that material. Eijsbouts studied this idea also and discovered that SG iron is also less prone to rusting, so they agreed to use it for this carillon. In fact, they indicated at the time that they might continue to use SG iron in future projects. (Whether that has actually happened, I do not know.)

The practice console

It is very important for a carillonneur—for a seasoned professional, but even more, for a student—to have a good practice console, making it possible to master notes of a composition without broadcasting the process of working out errors and repeating particularly difficult passages to the neighborhood. We ensured that a practice console was included with this project.

Bell founders and companies that specialize in building the hardware for carillons still offer traditional all-mechanical practice consoles with tone bars, but it is more common today to build practice consoles that play through computer-sampled sounds. Having seen well-made older practice consoles (mostly from English bell founders), I knew that a sturdy tone bar console, with occasional upkeep, could give reliable service 60 to 70 years or more after it was built. It is a significant understatement to say that no synthesizer or computer-operated instrument will come close to that life expectancy. Also, though no practice console will ever feel exactly like a carillon, the carillonneur is able to engage the mass of the keys and the hammer assembly in a way that no digital practice console, acting only on a contact (usually a pair of optical contacts), can do. A digital practice console, when built well, offers some dynamic sensitivity, but not in a way that reflects the technique the player is using to depress the key.

Having Eijsbouts build it to the standards they apply to their work now ensured that we would have a console where the keys, pedals, and position of everything would be an exact match for the console of the Metz Bicentennial Carillon. (The manual and pedal keyboards were designed according to standards proposed in the United States in 2000, subsequently adopted by the World Carillon Federation. Within those guidelines, there is still allowance for significant variation in key fall, height of sharp notes on pedals, and other details, and we needed all this to match.)

This was the largest tone bar practice console Eijsbouts had built in many years, and it incorporated a sturdy new action that is likely to give many long years of dependable service. Miguel Carvalho, the new campanologist at Eijsbouts, developed a new way to tune the tone bars so that they produce an overtone of a minor third. (In all honestly, that is really only noticeable in the lower range, but the idea is certainly an interesting one.) Matty Bergers was heavily involved in the design and construction of the practice console, the building of which received special attention by the entire Eijsbouts team. The back ends of the keys are made of metal stock (visible in the lower right of Picture 19) that is heavy enough to give some “mass” to the action, and the piano hammers used to strike the bars are sturdy and produce an agreeable sound. (Note also that some extra mass has been added to the hammers in the bass range.) Since many carillonneurs employ playing techniques that involve using momentum to complete many keystrokes (particularly in rapid playing at soft dynamic levels), this is a highly desirable though rare feature on a practice console. The special tuning cuts on the tone bars to produce the minor third overtones are visible at the bottom of Picture 19.

The clock chiming system

The automatic chiming system does not represent a new development, but it is interesting enough to warrant some explanation. In 2002, Paccard Bell Foundry of Annecy, France, developed an automatic playing system in which pneumatic pistons were fitted onto the console of the carillon, and the instrument was then played automatically using the keys, transmission, and clappers that the carillonneur would use to play manually. Naturally, other companies worked out their own variations on this system, including Eijsbouts.

The hardware for this system (clock computer, air compressor, circuitry, and the pistons) is all contained in the playing cabin, out of the elements. Picture 20 shows the pneumatic equipment placed just behind the music rack atop the console; Picture 21 shows the plungers (black pads with white tips, just right of center) that push down on the keys.

The purpose of the clock is to sound the time and occasionally to play melodies significant to the university, not to replace the carillonneur. Therefore, the chiming system is connected to just two octaves of bells.

We anticipated having a clock chime tune on the quarter hours and an hour strike, with a school song playing after the hour strike at 6:00 p.m. Because using the manual playing clapper for striking the hour would have caused a great deal of wear on it, we did opt to use an external hammer on that one bell, which also makes it possible to get a more commanding low hour strike than would have been possible through the pneumatic system. The low G hour strike would naturally lead into a melody played in G, so the pneumatics were fitted to the dominant notes, from D1 to D3. Indiana University is one of many universities to use the 19th-century tune “Annie Lisle” as the music for its alma mater, “Hail to Old IU,” which was first used in 1893. (Cornell University’s use of that tune appears to be the first, in 1870.) The class of 1935 commissioned songwriter Hoagy Carmichael (IU Class of 1925) to write a song with the intention of presenting it to the university to use as an alma mater. Though the resulting song, “The Chimes of Indiana” (which refers to the small chime of bells in the Student Building on the west side of campus), was presented to the university in 1937, and did indeed become part of IU’s musical tradition, it wasn’t until 1978 that the Alumni Association officially adopted it as another alma mater. The lowest note in both songs is the dominant, and with the melody being played following an hour strike on low G, the range of the pneumatic system was fitted to play from D1 (D being the dominant note in the key of G) to D3. After the striking of 6:00 p.m., the clock today plays “The Chimes of Indiana” several days a week, with “Hail to Old IU” playing on other days. (Since late March, the mechanism has been playing the Ukrainian National Anthem in lieu of the alma mater songs.) For some special occasions, such as New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Kwanzaa, other songs are played after the 6:00 p.m. hour strike instead. The clock is also set up to play either alma mater or the university’s fight songs at the push of a button. (This has been used on occasion when football touchdowns are scored, though the stadium is well out of earshot of the bells.)

Inaugural activities

For the official celebration of the university’s bicentennial on January 20, 2020, I was brought in to play both alma mater songs officially and to host a series of interested parties (including students and faculty from the organ department, university officials in charge of construction projects, and, of course, President McRobbie) who came up to see the instrument, and each took a turn sounding one of the four new bass bells. The Covid 19 pandemic put most other plans on hold, but Lynnli Wang began her time as associate instructor (graduate assistant) in carillon in the fall of 2020, performing, coordinating playing by others, and teaching many students.

The tower and carillon were officially accepted by the university on May 27, 2021, during an event including speeches, but also including a brief but elegant performance by Lynnli Wang. Belgian-American carillonneur Geert D’hollander, carillonneur of Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, was brought in to play the first official public recital on October 3, 2021. That program included a piece that the university commissioned from me, Landscape for Carillon, opus 35, which D’hollander and I premiered as a duet. I played a second dedicatory recital on March 26, 2022.

Looking to the future

Whether the university continues to employ graduate teaching assistants to teach and play or eventually puts a permanent faculty position in place remains to be seen. The present graduate assistant, Lynnli Wang, has done an outstanding job of organizing an enthusiastic group of students and has offered a variety of special programs, formal and informal, that have attracted the interest of the campus community at large. The potential is great, with two fine instruments, both using very durable materials and construction methods, and a superb practice console. Students and concert artists now have the facilities to make great carillon music at Indiana University.

All mechanical drawings were produced by Matty Bergers at Royal Eijsbouts Klokkengieterij. All photographs were taken by John Gouwens.

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