The Sound of Bells

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La Vinzelle, Aveyron, France, 1, 1250kg (about 24.5 qtrs) in Eb

Recorded: WAH 3/8/01
Analysed: WAH 5/8/01

La Vinzelle, France

The village of La Vinzelle is in the Lot Valley a few miles from Conques. It is built on a steep hillside several hundred feet above the River Lot with spectacular views across the valley. The church, dedicated to St. Roche, has three small bells. In 1870, a new large bell was donated to the village by a well-to-do local. It was cast, according to its inscription, by Triadou Cazes Pourcel at Rodez (a large town to the south). It is much too big for the church tower and was eventually hung in a stone bell cote on a rocky outcrop above the church. In the picture on the left, you can see the tower of the church (on the right) with the bell cote on the hillside above it. The village is justifiably proud of this bell. The signs to the village advertise it as a major attraction, and tourist guides gives much information on 'La Campana Bella'. The bell cote is open to public access (though a sign asks vistors to avoid ringing the bell so as not to disturb the peaceful atmosphere). Further pictures of the village and bell can be found here.

La Campana Bella

The bell hangs in a rather flimsy wooden frame on plain bearings. It is has canons and is hung by straps on a very large wooden headstock typical of this area which counter-balances the bell, allowing it to be easily swung by hand. It has a cast-in staple and a conventional clapper. Unlike most bells in the area it is still swung by rope and lever rather than by electric motor. The inscription on the bell reads 'Bienfaituer et donateur de la cloche par Mr OUILLADES Jean cachet de fauille; Melle Adéle DHAUTERIUES bien Faitrice; Mr J. Peuch curé. Fait á Rodez par TRIADOU CAZES POURCEL (1870)'. I have no information on this bellfounder so far, though I have found information on bells cast by a founder called Cazes Pourcel at Villefranche, a town not too distant from either Rodez or La Vinzelle, in 1893.

Inside the bell This view shows the inside of the bell, together with the clapper. The circular marks inside the bell due to lathe-tuning at the time it was cast can clearly be seen.

The relevance of this bell to those interested in English bells is its near-exact true-harmonic tuning and fine tone - for another example see the bell of 1808 at Vieillevie a few kilometres away. That French provincial bellfounders could produce work of this quality at a time when most English bells were far from true-harmonic is very interesting indeed. Here is the sound of the bell, struck very gently with its clapper.

Bell Founder Tuning
La Campana Bella Tiadou Cazes Pourcel 1870 None since then

Tuning of main partials

Nominal frequency: 605.6Hz.

Bell Hum Prime Tierce Quint Nom'l S'quint O'nom.
1 -2358 -1159
-1163
-881 -440 0 698 1253

(The figures in this table are all given in cents, to indicate the interval from the nominal. Pairs of values indicate a doublet.)

Intensity plots

Here is an intensity plot derived from the bell recording:

La Campana Bella

Commentary

The tuning table and the intensity plot say all there is to be said about this bell. The hum and prime are both just a little sharp of true octaves, but not so that the ear can detect this without help. In any case, some people suggest that a slightly sharp prime in a bell like this improves its tone. The only discernable doublet is on the prime, but the secondary pitch is very much quieter than the primary. The intensity plot shows that, with the very light blow I gave the bell with the clapper, the nominal is by far the dominant partial giving a rich tone with little in the way of high harmonics, thus avoiding brassiness. (A harder blow, such as when swung chimed, might give a brassier tone). The tierce and quint are nicely pitched also. All in all, a smashing bell in a most dramatic and beautiful location.


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Last updated August 16, 2001. Site created by Bill Hibbert, Great Bookham, Surrey