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bell chime

((from medieval Latin cymbala, meaning "bells") set of stationary bells tuned in a musical series, traditionally in diatonic sequence (seven-note scale) plus a few accidentals (sharps and flats). The bells generally number from 2 to 20 and, in the voorslags (automatic clock chimes) of Belgium and The Netherlands, can have a range of up to three octaves or more. The bell chime's primary function is the automatic play preceding the hour strike of a church or town-hall tower clock to alert to its imminence; it may also play on the half, quarter, and, sometimes, eighth hour. A secondary role is the human play of simple unharmonized melodies. From the 13th century this was done manually by pulling ropes attached to clappers ("clocking," now rare); from the late 18th century by a keyboard of levers and sometimes pedals, called a chime stand; and in the 20th century by an ivory keyboard with electric action, often in conjunction with automatic roll-play. To chime also refers to the clock's striking of the bells or chimes and to their music; in England, change-ringing bells swinging in a limited arc rather than a full-circle arc are said to chime.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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