Electrification: bells with a gag

Electrification: bells with a gag
Seville (Spain), Resurrection Sunday (21st April 2019). The bells of 'La Giralda' swing moved by electricity: they repeat the same ring but people seem unaware of it © Pilar Cabello

Electrification: bells with a gag

Social changes have led to the substitution of bell-ringers by electric mechanisms, instead of a ringer electrical impulses move the clappers or swing the bells at a predictable pre-programmed rhythm. Like a pianola, they mechanically repeat certain sounds. The advantage is that when they work the bells, they do so at the maximum sound level. The bells sound, but the sound cannot be modulated to send messages or transmit feelings or make music. The same brief programmed melody is repeated again and again.

There are people who are unaware of the richness of bell-ringing, and when they hear this wonderful sound, they fail to realise that they are listening to a melody which repeats itself, and think that they can hear “real” bells. When mechanised, bells lose their capacity for language and music. The sound is beautiful but the same phrase is repeated endlessly. They need a bell-ringer to play them by hand, with a personal touch to each performance depending on the occasion.