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These dharma bells were collected from antique shops by Emil Richards starting in the 1960s. They are loosely tuned/microtonal (but in general, chromatic) and have a range of 2 ½ octaves.
According to Emil, they came in sets of 3, 5, and occasionally 7 or 9. He took the dharma bells and laid them out in rows so they could be played more easily; then once he had enough, he mounted them vertically. He often played them with soft mallets or the back ends of drumsticks. Emil used them in scores often by sliding the sticks across them to give a glissando effect, or hitting them individually to create ringing tones.
Quick demo of dharma bells. Note that mallet choice has a large impact on timbre, and this is only one example.
In this excerpt from Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), by Thomas Newman, listen for the dark, metallic sound of one of the dharma bells completing the phrases of this piece in 3/4.
Please note: these are just examples, as playing technique and mallet/stick choices often have a great effect on the timbre.
These sound excerpts, to the best of our knowledge (unless otherwise noted), include this actual instrument from our collection. To hear the instrument yourself, or to let us know of any errors, please contact us.