NPR: Planet Money Podcast: #592: Bell Wars
December 23, 2014 6:00 PM - Subscribe

On today's show, a story on a Christmasy theme: Handbells! But also, a not-so-Christmasy theme: A decades-long feud between two big bell companies, located right down the road from each other. But then, a Christmasy ending: Peace!

The blog post that accompanies the episode (nice photos of the bells).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(The bells almost sound identical to me but if I were pressed, I'd say I prefer it with tang.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:02 PM on December 23, 2014

Confirms what I've long suspected: company wars are very good for business. (except for the lawyer fees, those gotta hurt.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:28 PM on December 23, 2014

It's a repeat, but a repeat of a good one.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:06 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also though they sounded the same to me, but I thought if pressed the first one was better. Can't remember if that was with or without tang though.
posted by cgg at 7:22 PM on December 23, 2014

That was the one with the tang, cgg.

A compelling narrative unfolded in this podcast, and I think it stands as an exemplar of what you can achieve in a short podcast (20 minutes or so). The final few minutes are particularly interesting because they describe how bell ringers would form strong allegiances with one manufacturer or another. I think it speaks to people's wish to belong to a certain group and bond and have in-groups/out-groups. Anyways I'd be interested to know what others thought.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:25 PM on December 23, 2014

Actually the first one (in the ATC link) was a Malmark, the one without a tang.
posted by Small Dollar at 9:03 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are in fact directors/ringers who are strongly in favor of one manufacturer or the other, and Malmark bells definitely have a brighter tone than Schulmerich. But if you listen closely, you can also hear differences between multiple sets of the same brand, since each is made individually and tuned to itself. The choir I ring with bought a second backup set a few years ago and it sounds brighter than the original set, which is noticeable (well, to us, and maybe those in the congregation with a good sense of pitch) when they're rung in the same piece. The differences are most obvious when ringing with massed choirs.

Fun fact: the bell manufacturers keep the specific tuning data for each set on file, so that if you want to expand your range later the new bells blend in with the old ones. So we have five octaves that sound essentially the same tone-wise, and then the second set that is also internally consistent but in a different way than the first set.

Personally I like Whitechapel bells, on which I first learned to play, above either Schulmerich or Malmark, but for obvious reasons they're much less common in the States.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:53 AM on December 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

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