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date: 05 August 2020

Cowbells (Fr. sonnailles, cloches à vache; Ger. Kuhglocken, Kuhschellen, Almglocken, Herdenglocken; It. cencerro)locked

  • James Blades
  • , revised by James Holland

Extract

(Fr. sonnailles, cloches à vache; Ger. Kuhglocken, Kuhschellen, Almglocken, Herdenglocken; It. cencerro)

Clapper bells (see Bell) suspended from the necks of cows and other herd animals. Those in orchestral usage are similar in shape and sound but are often clapperless, in which case they are struck with a drumstick. They are classified as idiophones: percussion vessels. Various types include (1) those made by folding and riveting or otherwise joining metal plates; (2) wooden bells; (3) cast campaniform bronze bells. The metal variety includes a number of well-known shapes, the open end varying from rectangular to oval, and the height frequently greater than the diameter. Wooden specimens take spectacular shapes and large proportions; examples from Java are over 75 cm wide.

Cowbells are particularly associated with the Alps where, in addition to the tintinnabulation of small bells, the deeper sound of the large bell worn by the champion milk-yielder can be heard. Sounds of this description are captured in orchestral works, notably Mahler’s Sixth Symphony (...

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