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Distant Bells: 12 Delightful Melodies from Distant Lands. Arranged for Resonator Bells and Piano

Levin, Herbert & Gail Levin (2005). Distant Bells: 12 Delightful Melodies from Distant Lands. Arranged for Resonator Bells and Piano. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publisher.

br2005_59Herbert Levin and Gail Levin, who are well known among many music therapists for their widely used collections Learning through songs and ., have now, some 30 years later (!) made an addition to their work with Distant Bells: 12 Delightful Melodies from Distant Lands. Arranged for Resonator Bells and Piano. The title says much about the content. Those expecting something radically new will not find this here. But those expecting to find more material in a similar vein as their previous work will find just this, arrangements of songs for piano, with resonator bells for children (elementary and/or and special education) to play. And which is very welcome. As the authors make clear in their introduction, bell players usually are assigned only melodies and chords of a particular song. Levin and Levin have made arrangements which aim at including attractive secondary melodic phrases, which is something not frequently found in children’s music. The intent is to make playing the songs musically rewarding. And the arrangements on the whole certainly do have musical qualities that make them a very fine addition to the literature.

The twelve folk songs that are picked out are well known, popular folk tunes, from different countries, which the authors have tried to make varied and effective arrangements for, and which apparently they have succeeded in. This collection is not, however, for the novice. There are no written comments on how to use each song, besides from some simple suggestions in the foreword, like possibly adding other instruments like cymbal, tambourine, and/or triangle. Another suggestion is recording the piano part, for being able to be in direct contact with the children learning their parts, returning to “live” playing afterwards. Besides from this it is left to the discrimination and skills of the instructor, or music therapist. But this could be considered fair enough, the selections being an addition to previously published literature, which has already found a use in many different settings. One thing that might be missed though is the lyrics of the songs. Or at least a brief comment on what they are about, beyond what is conveyed in the titles. Being very well known songs it presumably has been considered possible for the user to find more out about this. Nevertheless a note here would have been convenient.

Still it is hard to complain. Actually it is quite astonishing that so little material of this kind has been published within music therapy literature. Practicing therapists certainly would appreciate new additions to the literature, and here is actually some fine new material to check out, and to find uses for.

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