Help Identifying Melody Prior to Tolling of Bells?
March 5, 2008 7:24 AM   Subscribe

In many places throughout the country, you often hear a eight-note melody played prior to church bells tolling the hour. Can you help me identify it?

I used this online keyboard to try to suss out what the notes were, and they appear to be:

high C, G sharp, B flat, F, then a pause, then F, B flat, high C, G sharp

Or, it may be:

G, D sharp, F, low C/C sharp, pause, low C/C sharp, F, G, D sharp

I seem to remember somewhere in the back of my mind that it's a portion of a hymn. Does anyone know what the origin of this short melody is?

Also, any place where I can find sound files (of any sort, WAV, MIDI, etc.) -- preferably clean ones without tons of background noise? I have a Mac preference pane which will play a sound file on the quarter-hour, half-hour, hour, etc., and I'd like to use this ...
posted by WCityMike to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I believe you're after this.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:28 AM on March 5, 2008

Are you thinking of the Westminster Chimes?
posted by jacob at 7:29 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by jacob at 7:29 AM on March 5, 2008

Isn't that the melody played by the chimes of Big Ben in London? Mi do re sol, sol re mi do.
posted by LN at 7:29 AM on March 5, 2008

You didn't specify the country. One of the things that surprised me on moving to the UK is that there are many clock bells that strike some other tune instead of the Westminster Quarters.
posted by grouse at 7:31 AM on March 5, 2008

Yup, that's it. Thanks, guys!
posted by WCityMike at 7:32 AM on March 5, 2008

Right on for WC. People have written musical arrangements based on it, such as in this organ music compliation CD ("Carillon de Westminster" by Louis Vierne").
posted by Melismata at 7:33 AM on March 5, 2008

that would be compilation!!
posted by Melismata at 7:34 AM on March 5, 2008

Damn, too late. The moment I read this question before the more inside part I knew that you were talking about the Westminster Chimes. It is interesting how ubiquitous this melody is...
posted by ob at 7:57 AM on March 5, 2008

This is a fun little thing to practise your guitar harmonics:

12th B, 12th G, 7th D, 12th D breathe 12th D, 7th D, 12th B 12th G
posted by benzo8 at 8:40 AM on March 5, 2008

Most bell clocks perform patterns known as Ringing the Changes.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:47 AM on March 5, 2008

Ah modern sonic remnants of empire. I wonder what the French equivalent is?
posted by billtron at 8:53 AM on March 5, 2008

Hey, for people still visiting this thread ... looks like both Westminster links go to the Wikipedia article, and OGG's not a great choice for the Mac. I suppose Audacity could convert it, but does anyone have a link to some clean recordings (read: not live off the street) of Westminister Quarters being played by church bells? (I realize church bells would have to be recorded off the street, as you're not about to bring a church bell into a recording studio, but, uh, well, there's got to be something, I imagine.)
posted by WCityMike at 9:40 AM on March 5, 2008

Decades after being a cub scout (in Canada), I saw this question and immediately sang "O Lord our God, thy children call, grant us Thy peace, and bless us all" in my head.

The only clean recordings I could find are grandfather clocks on Sound Dogs, but they charge bout $7 for the (royalty-free) recording.
posted by Shepherd at 10:24 AM on March 5, 2008

For the record in Britain there's a nursery rhyme Oranges and Lemons set to that tune. We used to sing it to a parlor game when I was a kid sixty years ago, and the last line always terrified me "Here comes a chopper to chop off your head".
posted by anadem at 11:01 AM on March 5, 2008

WCityMike, for ogg on the mac you want Xiph QuickTime Components.
posted by scruss at 11:05 AM on March 5, 2008

Interesting, anadem. "Sit Down by the Fire," a fake terrifying nursery rhyme by the Pogues, ends with the phrase, "good night and God bless, now fuck off to bed."
posted by ibmcginty at 12:19 PM on March 5, 2008

Thanks, guys. I dove into the Chimey preference pane and found some clear sound files there.
posted by WCityMike at 7:47 PM on March 6, 2008

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