bell chime

Encyclopedia

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.

Learn more about bell chime with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Cite This Source
Explore Dictionary.com
Previous Definition: bell cat
Words Near: bell chime
More from Thesaurus.com
Synonyms and Antonyms for bell chime
More from Reference.com
Search for articles containing bell chime
More from Dictionary.com Translator
Dictionary.com Word FAQs

Dictionary.com presents 366 FAQs, incorporating some of the frequently asked questions from the past with newer queries.

Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature