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The traditional music
famous and amazing found of tombs from the 5th century BC (like the
tomb of Marquis Zeng Hou Yi in Hubei Province) showed up with amazing
sets of bell sets in various sizes
hung up on stands. These bell sets ("Bian
not surely declared in function, but it is clear that the first purpose
was that of a musical instrument.
As with the
bronze drums of the Dong Son culture in Vietnam we still have to be
cautious with interpretations. Bells can be found worldwide, next to
China we find bells in Persia very early, then followed by the signal
giving hung bell in Christian churches. Worldwide, bells may be found
as signal instruments used for cattle as for temple ceremonies, but
only the Chinese bell sets surely
function as a musical instrument,
built with clearly defined pitches and carved with the two pitches and
playing advices. Though the bells do not appear in the order we would
nowadays expect them to, this is still another indication for the
playing skills that were needed to be part of such a bell ensemble.
sets differ in apperance, but most of them show at least a range of
three octaves, including all chromatic pitches of the temperized scale.
This way, one might think of a bell set as a melodic one, but it is
also possible that the bells were used in ensembles to give accents and
represent the master tunig for other instruments. All bells found are
still playable, and all of them hold carvings and scripts, which do not
only indicate the two sounds a bell can produce, they even give playing
advice and the first solmisation in music history, which is
outstanding, as mostly all instruments in this time only hold
dedications if carved. The first bell sets seem to go back to 12th
century BC, the latter ones seem to require 5 players to be played,
while it is still unclear whether the smaller bells which were
hung nearly 3 meter
above were played or not.
also seems as if the first set of bells found dating back to the 12th
century BC were collected over the time and not produced at the same
time. This diatonic set with bells collected from different ages and
locations seemed to be the initial set for all following productions -
this means, there was no “how to make a bell tuned C”, they
just copied a bell further on for later bell sets, using it as the
basic model for copies.
This also is important for the historical impact of the bell tuning on other Chinese musical instruments.
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