Sean Duffy Carillon Page
This is my page that has links to compositions I wrote for the carillon, which is an instrument consisting of church tower bells. I have written several pieces, here are youtube videos of the music (performed by musescore using a carillon soundfont) as well as the sheet music. If you wish to learn more about the carillon I recommend this page.
The following pieces are free to download and play for any purpose under the CC – SA licence. It would be amazing if you do play any of these if you would let me know, and if you have a recording I would love to hear you play. I will add more pieces as I find the time to input them.
Passacaglia in C minor for Carillon (2020) Passacaglia_in_C_minor (PDF)
I wrote most of this piece in 2002 but revised it substantially in 2020. One of the pieces of music that got me interested in classical music when I was a kid was Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. I remember listening to it on an old cassette tape with headphones in my childhood bedroom in Philadelphia. I think the carillon is a perfect instrument for a Passacaglia – which is a piece were there are variations over a basso continuo (a melody played in the low range of the instrument).
Nocturne for Carillon (2020) – Nocturne_for_Carillon PDF
During Covid, to distract myself from it all, I wrote this piece. It had been a melody in my head for many years. I think one of the reasons I am writing these down finally after years is to get them all out of my head. Once committed to paper, its a great relief to not have to hum it to yourself at bus stops and think of ways to edit it. Much like publishing an academic paper!
Prelude for Carillon (1998) – Prelude_in_C_Major PDF
One of the most famous carillon composers is Matthias Vanden Gheyn, a dutch bell founder and early virtuoso. He wrote a series of preludes that are widely performed. In 1998 I wrote this piece in his style.
Stages for Carillon (Part 1, 1998) – Five_Stages_for_Carillon PDF
This piece takes advantage of a particular feature of bells – that they are tuned with a harmonic system that emphasizes not the natural Pythagorean harmonics but an unnatural harmonic series in which the most significant tone is the minor third. This is one of the reasons bells sound mournful. The octotonic scale is one that is constructed such that for any note within the scale there is a minor third above and below it, which can be described as the “natural” scale for a carillon. This piece uses one of the three modulations of the octotonic scale, on the Dies Irae theme. This is part 1, I will eventually upload the other 4 parts.
A Quiet Suite for Carillon (2002)
In 2001 the carilloneuse (she liked that word) Janet Dundore invited me to play a concert at the carillon in Fort Washington, PA. I brought along some dissonant pieces I wrote, and a few written in Octotonic scales and played. I came down and she seemed unimpressed. “That was loud. How about next year you come back and play a quiet suite for carillon?” So I wrote these pieces over the course of a year and returned in 2002. Needless to say, I got a better review that time. She passed away a few years later and I unfortunately never met her again after that.
A Zambra is a type of Flamenco a Spanish Dance. The tremolos should be played as a Flamenco triple – which is a way of strumming a guitar which one can look up. But 32nd note here approximate it but not adequately.
A barcarole is a song sung by the gondoliers of Venice, Italy. If you play this piece, think waves.
A tango is an Argentinian dance. This piece is a fun one to play involving most of the instrument.
A waltz is a German dance in 3/4 rhythm common in ballroom settings.
Three Dreamsongs for Carillon (1997)
In my youth someone gave me a copy of John Berryman’s Dream songs which influenced me a great deal. I also was interested in the music of Schoenberg and in particular his highly structured 12-tone technique, as well as the aleatoric compositions of John Cage. Around this time I was lucky enough to meet the great composer Pierre Boulez at the Chicago Symphony. These three pieces were written in this tradition of serial (or at least quasi-serial) compositions
Dream Song 1 for carillon. (Dream Song 1)
Dream Song 2 for carillon. (Dream Song 2)
Dream Song 3 for carillon. (Dream Song 3)
The following are from a folder “Three Asian Folksongs” – I lived in Japan for a little while in the early 2000s. I know there was an arrangement of Sakura – my favorite Japanese folks melody but it is missing from the folder. When I find it I will publish it (but there are other versions of that out there already).
Song of Bluebells (Korean Folksong arrangement) –Doraji_Tahryung__Song_of_Bluebells_ PDF
Lan Hua Hua “Blueflowers” (Chinese Folksong) – Lan_Hua-Hua__Blueflowers PDF
Amazing Grace – Amazing_Grace PDF
Always loved ending concerts with this simple arrangement. I don’t think it is worth getting fancy with this classic.
The Swan (from Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals) Score PDF
Twenty years ago I played the carillon at UChicago for someone’s wedding. The father of the bride on the morning of the wedding, asked if I could play The Swan from the carnival of the animals, because it was the song from a music box he had given his daughter as a kid. You know, most people think you are behind a computer and can just punch in a song name and out comes music. But you have to arrange things and play them hand and foot! So I ran over to the University of Chicago library, found a copy of the score, and quickly wrote this one up. Years later in 2022, I was searching an old statistics textbook for an equation and I found this manuscript folded up in the pages as a book mark. Given that I really did not feel like running statistical analyses that day I input this into Musescore instead.
Variations on John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt Score
People have asked why make an arrangement of John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt but why not? It is a good song. Certainly more interesting than 99 bottles of beer on the wall. Well I hope you enjoy this and that it rages in your head at least for a couple of hours
Here is some music I performed on the Lurie Carillon, at the University of Michigan):
Prelude #5 (J. van den Gheyn)
Gnossienne #1 (E. Satie)
Sakura (Japanese Folksong)
Stage 1 (original composition)
Although my favorite carillon is the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Carillon in the bell tower of Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. Here is a bad video of me playing it. I was twenty years younger (and twenty pounds lighter) then.