BlogJacob deGroot-Maggetti

Oliver Schroer – Chel's Bells

Chel’s Bells is the 6th track of Oliver Schroer’s Hymns and Hers, which he recorded in 2007 after being diagnosed with leukemia. Below are a few thoughts on the tune’s form and instrumentation, as well as some comments on the A and B sections. I encourage you to check out my full transcription.


Here’s the first full pass through the tune:

Transcription of the main tune of Chel's Bells
One full repetition of Chel's Bells

Chel’s Bells has two main sections, A and B, each of which is repeated four times during a single pass through the tune. The A section is varied slightly on successive repeats, while the B section has two distinct variants, which I’ve labelled B and B’. The tune also features two 4-measure transitions, one from A sections to B sections, and one from B sections back to A sections. The A section and the A-to-B transition are in 6/8, while the B section and the B-to-A transition are in are in 9/8.

Section(s) Meter Number of Bars
A x2 6/8 12 (6x2)
A x2 6/8 12 (6x2)
Trans. 6/8 4
B x2 9/8 8 (4x2)
B’ x2 9/8 8 (4x2)
Trans. 9/8 4

The entire tune is played three times, with each repetition featuring more instruments and a thicker texture. The first repetition features fiddle, acoustic guitar, and 5-string bass. The second repetition features fiddle, guitar, bass, and a swirl of fiddle countermelodies. The third repetition features the same instruments, with the addition of a trumpet, which doubles the rising bass line during the A sections and contributes to the nebula of countermelodies in the B sections.

A Section

The A section is based on an ascending, 5-note D major scale. The first three notes are clearly evident as low points in the fiddle line, while the last two notes are less obvious: the fourth note is in the middle of a measure, and the fifth note is shifted down by an octave.

Transcription of the first A section of Chel's Bells, with an implied line in the melody highlighted
Implied rising line in the A section of Chel's Bells

The bass plays this ascending line each time, and in the third repeat of the entire tune, the trumpet also doubles this line.

Transcription of an A section of Chel's Bells, with bass and trumpet lines.
Trumpet and bass reinforce the rising line in the A section.

The B Section

Harmonically, the B section oscillates back and forth between B minor and G major chords, with A major chords in between: ||: Bm - A - G - A :||. This harmonic progression is clearly outlined in the melody, with the fiddle playing an ascending arpeggio at the beginning of each measure with the root of the chord on the downbeat.

Transcription of the first B section of Chel's Bells, with implied line highlighted
Bass line on the downbeats of the B section of Chel's Bells

The varied B section (B’) features more notes in its ascending arpeggios, and less even rhythms. In my transcription, I’ve chosen to limit myself to 16th-notes and 2-tuplets, but these rhythms are treated loosely, and there could be more going on here.

Comparison between the B and B' sections of Chel's Bells
The B' section of Chel's Bells, lower, compared to the B section

Final Thoughts

As usual, there’s much more that could be said about this tune, particularly the countermelodies in the 2nd and 3rd passes through the tune and the rhythms in the B’ section. If you have any thoughts, questions or comments, I encourage you to get in touch!

This blog post was adapted and included in my Master's thesis on Oliver Schroer, Temporal Asymmetries in the Fiddle Music of Oliver Schroer.

Posted: Mar 29, 2021. Last updated: Aug 31, 2023.