Q: What is a carillon?
A: A carillon is a mechanical keyboard instrument, like a piano or organ. What makes it unique is how it produces sound; while a piano makes sound through strings and an organ through pipes, a carillon makes sound through cast bronze bells. So, you might think of a carillon as a bell piano in a tower!
Q: Does a person play the carillon or is it automated?
A: A person plays it! While many tower bells (including the Metz Carillon) have systems which allow the bells to be played automatically, the bells must have a mechanical keyboard which can be played by a person in order to be considered a traditional carillon.
Q: How many carillons are there in the world?
A: There are roughly 650 carillons worldwide, more than 180 of which are located in the US. There are 7 traditional carillons in Indiana, the largest of which is the Metz Carillon.
Q: Where did the carillon come from?
A: The carillon originated in the Low Countries (modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands) in the 17th century. The first official carillon was cast in Zutphen in 1646 by the Hemony brothers and consisted of 23 bells.
Q: How big is the instrument?
A: The Metz Carillon has 65 bells with a combined weight of roughly 44 tons, making it the 14th heaviest carillon in North America. Carillons vary greatly in size and weight, ranging anywhere from 23 bells to 77 bells and weighing anywhere from several hundred pounds to over 100 tons!
Q: How tall is the Metz Carillon?
A: The Metz Carillon is 128 feet tall, and the playing cabin is about 50 feet above the ground.
Q: Who plays the carillon at IU?
A: The carillon is played by the University Carillonist and students who are enrolled in IU’s carillon studio.
Q: Can you play pop songs on the carillon?
A: If you can whistle it, you can play it on the carillon! Since the carillon is such a public instrument, we try to play as wide a variety of music as possible, including original works for the carillon, classical music arrangements, folk songs, jazz standards, rock, pop, and more.
Q: Does the carillon studio take requests?
A: Yes, we do! Please email song requests to Wade FitzGerald at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t promise that your song will be possible to play (certain types of music are simply unplayable on the carillon–rap music, for example, usually deals more with rhythm and lyrics than melody and harmony) but we will do our best to accommodate your request! If your request is accepted, you will receive a response with the date and time during which your song will be played.