Les Cloches de Notre-Dame de Paris

Les Cloches de Notre-Dame de Paris

lay klush duh nuh-truh dahm duh paa-REE. Click below to hear this.

The bells of Notre-Dame de Paris.

Do you love the sound of bells, as I do? A good carillon is an amazing instrument, and the sound is like no other. It is bold, complex, subtle, penetrating; it can shake you to your core.

Perhaps the most famous bells in the world are those of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. Anyone who lives anywhere near the cathedral has heard them; since 1856, the four major bells in the north tower have rung without fail every 15 minutes.

But these are not the original bells, not by a long shot. The cathedral itself will be celebrating its 850th birthday in 2013. It has had bells for most of its life. But bells don’t live forever, no matter how sturdy they appear to be. Years of use can and do (pardon the pun) take their toll. The bells, which are painstakingly tuned during the process of casting, wear out and fall out of tune.

The solution? Melt them down and cast new bells from the same metal.

That’s what is planned for the bells of Notre-Dame. You can read about the plans, and the wide range of people’s reactions, in English in the New York Times, at this link, or in French in Le Monde’s blog at this link.

The project aims to restore the sound of the bells as they were in the 17th century. Here, from the official website of Notre-Dame de Paris, is an audio file of the bells not as they sound now, but as they are expected to sound when the restitution project is complete. The file plays for 3:42 minutes. Notice how the sound becomes increasingly complex, as one layer joins and overlaps another.

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