Friday, December 23, 2011

On Sleigh Bells

I've been trying not to hate the sound of sleigh bells. 

I can't help but equate sleigh bells with Christmas music and the Boston Pops. Are they forever doomed to be a tiny jangly demon in a Leroy Anderson christmas nightmare?

Prokofiev uses them to similar effect in Lt. Kij√©, which is better, but still a bit too Christmas-y for me. 

I am always amazed by artists who use sleigh bells in their music without seeming to care about this elephant-in-the-room musical reference. Brave. We need to reclaim the sound of sleigh bells! I'm sure there is some great, gnarly piece of 20th century modernist music that uses sleigh bells in a startling way, but I can't think of any right now. Below are some examples of sleigh bells in the right hands, though I'm sure there are plenty more. 

Carl Orff's usage in Carmina Burana is much more secular - an ode to women's use of makeup to lure men (skip to 5:00 to hear them):

John Coltrane - sleigh bells seem to start every song throughout Interstellar Space:

or The Beach Boys - sleigh bells permeate God Only Knows:

Then there's the rock band Sleigh Bells, who sound to me a lot like The Ting Ting's (who sound a lot like the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, but I digress...). I don't think there are any literal sleigh bells up in here, but because of their name it seems worth mentioning:

I don't want to dilute a popular meme by saying "occupy sleigh bells," but let's re-appropriate them.


Isaac Howard said...

200 person sleigh bell rhythmic cacophony!
Synthesized chromatic sleigh bell key-board?

Unknown said...

Yes! Ominous sleigh bells, or phasing sleigh bells, or something crazy, hm...