It’s not a secret for anybody, that bells are well-known in Rus for a long time. The annals hand down to us records of bell casting, recasting and repairing and also of conflagrations, which melt down bell metal like resin. This is a weighty evidence of great importance of bells in Rus of the ancient times. Nowadays we know names of many foremen, which are cast on the surface of bells. Annalistic books of Novgorod of the 16th century contain information about bell-ringers of that time.
The kingly book demonstrates a remarkable miniature, which represents bell casting, exactly the most difficult process of bell casting- filling a form with metal. In the foreground we can see 2 channels and fluid metal, flowing through them, in the background the painter showed the finished bell with a bell-ringer. Each foreman has his own secrets. The master should be able to use the most difficult techniques, to observe mathematical proportions, to know the exact composition of metal, masters need it to make sounding of their bells beautiful.
It is clear, that foundry workers can’t dispense scientific knowledge. Practically the first man, who regarded a bell technically, was archpriest Aristarh Aleksandrovich Israilev. His follower, a connoisseur of bells and bell casting craft, N. Olovianishnikov asserts that the archpriest followed in his theoretical schemes and calculations the same practical solutions, which were used by the other Russian masters, while he made a scientific scheme of a bell profile and a sound theory. We can say, that he was the first man, who gave foundry workers an opportunity to regard a bell as a musical instrument, acquainted them with the sound theory, because the workers were on account of lack of education out of touch with it. It should be noticed, that the archpriest Israilev.didn’t make changes in the construction of the bell profile and he achieved the harmony of ringing and rightness of the sound only by sharpening of the bell, although that was a laborious task and it wasn’t always effectual.
So where is the secret of this peculiar, magnetic almost magic sound of the bell? What is the physiological reason of this strong, different from the other musical instruments influence on people? There is no direct and rigorous response. Some research people think, that it can be explained by inimitable, original acoustic features.
The main difference of a bell from the other musical instruments is that partial tones of a bell don’t give a harmonic succession of sounds, like the other instruments, but on the contrary they generate their own sequence . These partial tones are natural, while the partial tones of the other instruments are tempered, that means, that they correspond with a time scale.
That’s why frequency of bell overtones differs from the frequency of respective notes of the time scale. All partial tones are necessary for creation of harmonic and rich inflection of bell sounding. Even not all of them can be heard and some of them are not harmonic, no one of them can be removed without complete change of timbre. A real master always knows a secret of the composition of bell metal, because the metal is not less important for sounding than the form of the bell. The joint name of bell metal means some compositions of copper and tin, while the first metal is prevalent. Copper and tin can have different proportions, but only some certain alloys are used for casting of bells of high quality.
Besides you can find presence of admixtures, which can appear because of insufficient purification of raw materials or they can be included into alloy for giving of special qualities to it. Iron, manganese, nickel, lead, zinc, phosphorus, arsenic, sulphur, stibium can be used in the capacity of admixtures. 80 parts of copper and 20 parts of tin make the approximate ratio in bell metal. Foundry workers make high demands of bell metal, like of any other material in production; bell metal should make a full and clear sound by striking, it should have considerable solidity and elasticity. Bell metal of high quality should have a compact, fine-grained grey-white fracture.
It is noticeable, that foundry workers kept secrets of bell casting carefully and passed them only to the best followers. Nowadays we try to follow the best examples of bell casting art by working with modern orders.