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A carillon (English pronunciation: /ˈkærɨlɒn/, /ˈkærɨljɒn/, or /kəˈrɪljən/; French: [kaʁijɔ̃]) is a musical instrument that is usually housed in a free-standing bell tower, or the belfry of a church or other municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to play a melody, or sounded together to play a chord. A carillon is played by striking a keyboard the keys of which are sometimes called "batons" with the fists and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet. The keys mechanically activate levers and wires that connect to metal clappers that strike the bells, allowing the performer, the carillonneur, to vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key.

The carillon is the heaviest of all extant musical instruments[1]; the total weight of bells alone can be 100 tons in the largest instruments. The greatest concentration of carillons is still found in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Northern France, where they were symbols of civic pride and status. Some of the most spectacular are now protected by UNESCO as part of the world heritage site the Belfries of Belgium and France.



In medieval times, bells were first used as a way of notifying people of fires, storms, wars and other events. The great bell Rowland announced births, deaths, fires, and military attacks. A ringing of bells rung from the lowest note to the highest note indicated that an attack had taken place. The use of bells in a musical fashion originated in the 14th century in the Low Countries.

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