Bells in Secular Music (Or Really Good Religious Music)
December 5, 2016 2:32 PM   Subscribe

I was thinking today how I like "Carol of the Bells," then thought how I also like "Tubular Bells." Then how I love the album Pantha du Prince did with Bell Laboratory. So now that I know I like bells, what should I listen to, aside from really churchy or new age stuff? I can get pretty experimental in my tastes, so don't worry about being too out there. It's also okay if it's instrumentation that just sounds a lot like bells. Please avoid all other holiday music.
posted by mermaidcafe to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The ever incredible Bjork can certainly help. Who Is It?
posted by merocet at 3:18 PM on December 5, 2016

Oooh. The Gamelan is essentially a complex bell setup.

See if this tickles your fancy.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:22 PM on December 5, 2016

aspersioncast, good idea! I do like some of Lou Harrison's gamelan music. This particular video that you llnked is too repetitive; I like more of a sense of melody or other sounds integrated. But the tone of the gamelan is lovely.
posted by mermaidcafe at 3:52 PM on December 5, 2016

One secular orchestral piece that actually gives the bells the lead is Alfred Ketelby's Bells Across The Meadow (1921), allegedly inspired by his hearing churchbells in Malta. Ketelby was a prominent composer of "light orchestral" music in the early 20th century. I find some of his stuff delightful and others a bit cloying.
posted by lhauser at 3:56 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some handbell and church bell videos on Youtube come to mind. Tetsuo's Theme from Akira, maybe. And in the category of instrumentation that kind of sounds like bells, you might like some music box [FPP] playlists and whatnot.
posted by Wobbuffet at 4:04 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Tetsuo's Theme is perfect! Thank you. Maybe I'm looking for handbells?
posted by mermaidcafe at 4:07 PM on December 5, 2016

Recommend Brian Eno's Lux1-4 series. I especially love the way Eno allows notes to wave cycle.
posted by effluvia at 4:54 PM on December 5, 2016

Gravity's Angel by Laurie Anderson has bells, and sounds kinda like it was influenced by Japanese Court Music.
posted by ovvl at 5:13 PM on December 5, 2016

Cylob's "Mood Bells" is quite nice. It's on Rephlex, Aphex Twin's label, but is pretty mellow overall.

The For Carnation's s/t on Touch and Go is also laden with resonant bells. The main guy behind the band is formerly of Slint and The For Carnation is, uh, "slowcore" I guess.

There's also Total Eclipse of the Sun by Einsturzende Neubauten, but I don't remember the album it came from ("Silence is Sexy") well enough to remember if there are prominent bells in the rest — and upon further reflection, they may actually be wine glasses played to give bell-like resonance.
posted by klangklangston at 5:46 PM on December 5, 2016

You said not too churchy, but you might be interested in Estonian composer Arvo Pärt and tintinnabuli - music that sounds like the ringing of bells. Here's his setting of The Beatitudes.
posted by bunderful at 6:40 PM on December 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Those Were The Days by Cream.
posted by Rash at 8:02 PM on December 5, 2016

I'm stretching the definition of bells but...

And On The Seventh Day Petals Fell In Petaluma (Harry Partch)
posted by Puddle at 11:14 PM on December 5, 2016

Huh. I clicked this link all excited to be edgy by posting Oval - 94diskont but I get in here and instead find a whole bunch of old friends.
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 11:53 PM on December 5, 2016

Sufjan Stevens' Michigan album has several tracks with bells.
Tahquamenon falls is one.
posted by fancyoats at 4:26 AM on December 6, 2016

You may like the music of this guy (now a group, apparently?) who used to perform various songs on the carrillon at a music festival near me: Cast In Bronze. Really fun guy to watch and listen to. If you search for "Cast in Bronze live" on YouTube there are a bunch of cool performances that come up; their album tracks on YouTube are mixed with some non-bell contributions so I don't know if you'd dig that as much.
posted by shortskirtlongjacket at 4:44 AM on December 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Sonos Handbell Ensemble may be worth a listen. Sacred music is part of their repertoire (IME handbell choirs are a church thing, so I suspect hymns and carols are de rigueur for any professional company), but their albums also include a lot of classical and folk/traditional tunes. Their YouTube channel only has eight videos, which is a shame because handbells are pretty mesmerizing to watch.
posted by Fish, fish, are you doing your duty? at 10:42 AM on December 6, 2016

Probably not what you're looking for: For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Metallica. The bell-work in it is less than interesting.
posted by clawsoon at 11:54 AM on December 6, 2016

Andrew Bird - Belles
posted by borkencode at 1:50 PM on December 6, 2016

I've always loved the actual church bells in the (exceptionally dark) song Blood Roses by Tori Amos. I wish they were a little higher in the mix, though.
Deep Red Bells, by Neko Case, has a cool bell-like guitar effect (at least I think that's what that is), and references bells in the lyrics too, if that's something you're into.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 8:20 AM on December 7, 2016

I've always enjoyed the bells in Russian Christmas Music (composed by Alfred Reed).
posted by sibilatorix at 8:26 PM on December 7, 2016

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