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Bells, gongs, and cymbals produce a multitude of pitches simultaneously.  They inhabit a musical dimension between that of specifically pitched instruments and sounds with so many pitches or so little stability of pitches that none can be effectively distinguished.

playlist of bellish instruments on youtube

Most of our euro-american tonal concepts (those behind strings, winds, and bars) are based almost exclusively on length (with the other two dimensions as modifiers).  This is efficient and simple and produces the most easily identifiable (least complex) pitch fields.

Circular and curved objects struck at different places with different strikers and different degrees of force tend to produce a variety of frequencies.  This tends to remove us, when using them musically, from the linear ideas that propel western ideas of tonality: the inharmonicity-rich sonic universes multilinear instruments  generate are infinitely more complex.  If western pitch generation can be thought of as essentially one dimensional, instruments based on circles and curves are three dimensional.  In mathematical terms, the analogy would be the difference between arithmetic and topology.  In terms of conventional western theory they are bewildering, and generations of western theorists have dismissed them as “noise”.

I have listened to and read about gamelan music (whose theoretical sense of music is far less linear than that of the west)  for many years, but I am far from considering myself remotely knowledgeable about it.  My approach to building and playing “circular” instruments comes from a desire to explore and gain some understanding of the 3-D tonal universe.

Some of the Anarchestra instruments whose pitches are not essentially generated by proportions of lengths along straight lines.

bustelo 02 chilmark

Bustelo 02 Chilmark

pilon 02 chilmark

Pilon  02 Chilmark

daisy 04 santa fe

Daisy  04 Santa Fe

dish 04 santa fe

Dish  04 Santa Fe

props 11 Tucson

Props  11 Tucson

cymbcity 12 tucson

Cymbcity  12 Tucson

roarick 13 tucson copy

Roarick 13 Tucson

a collaboration with Niko Ewing

GnG 14 tucson

GnG  14 Tucson

cymbulate 14 tucson

Cymbulate  14 Tucson

reroar 15 Tucson

Reroar  15 Tucson

ungadi 16 tucson

Ungadi  16 Tucson

N'Sna 16 tucson

N’Sna  16 Tucson


Litulbelz  Tucson 16


Z’Orb  16 tucson

The same basic idea as Ben Franklin’s Glass Armonica, except the singing bowls are steel and played with rosined pearwood rather than wet fingers.


4 thoughts on “Bellishness”

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