Bethia - capturing the sound of carillon bells

For his new work Bethia, composer Daniel Elms needed to be able to harness the sound of carillon bells. Here's how he did it.

Bethia Film No 1 The Carillon Bells of Hull

Ahead of his performance of Bethia at Royal Festival Hall Daniel Elms and fellow composer had to take unusual measures in order to create a digital version of the sound of the carillon bells, which are used as an instrument within the piece.

Reasoning that taking recording equipment to the bells was a more easily accomplished, and more cost-effective, task, than disassembling and transporting the bells to Southbank Centre, Elms and Rice braved the bell tower of the Holy Trinity Church in Elms’ native Hull to record the carillon’s distinctive pitches.

Thankfully, though the tower - and the stairs which traverse it - was never designed to accommodate two composers carrying suitcases full of modern recording equipment, Elms and Rice were successful in their mission. And in this short video is an early extract of Bethia as the soundtrack, in which you can hear the fruits of their labour: the sampler instrument of the carillon bells.

Part of New Music Biennial, Bethia comes to Royal Festival Hall on Friday 7 July.