Whether ringing in the holidays, gracing a winter evening with a chandelier of lights, or simply opening a door, brass lends a glowing touch.
Based originally on a Ukrainian folk tune to celebrate the coming of the New Year, the “Carol of the Bells” has become a favorite, seasonal song. Although played in many arrangements, the English lyrics seem especially suited played on handbells made of brass.
Brass instruments are notable for their resonance and excellent sound quality. They can croon with a mellow purr, ring with warmth, or sing brightly. Being serenaded by a brass band, which in the British tradition includes cornets, horns, trombones, flugelhorns, tubas and a few pieces of percussion, is an event that ensures everyone in the surrounding area knows of your celebration. Military bands often feature brass instruments prominently, since these groups play outside and want the sound to carry a great distance. Brass instruments also have a warm, quieter side when mutes are used to muffle the voice of the horns and other instruments take the melodic lead.
The malleability and acoustical properties of brass make it an ideal material for making a whole family of musical instruments. Horns and bells for trumpets, trombones, tubas, and bugles are all fashioned from brass which is then polished and lacquered to prevent corrosion. Saxophones are also made of brass, even though they are classified as woodwinds since their sound is produced by blowing on a reed rather than against a mouthpiece. The copper content of brass makes it a natural germicide, which adds to its desirability for musical instruments. Although instruments with good sound quality can be made from aluminum or stainless steel, these metals create moist, dark interiors, which quickly become unpleasantly colonized by microorganisms.
Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, is familiar for its muted gold color and resistance to tarnish. It differs from bronze, which is predominantly copper plus tin. In addition to decorative items, brass is also used for objects such as locks, doorknobs, valves, and ammunition where low friction is desired. Brass is one of the softer metals, and it is often used around flammable gases since it does not tend to strike sparks.
The brass used today for “new” products is actually about 90 percent recycled brass. It is relatively easy to separate brass from other metals and alloys because brass is not ferromagnetic. Passing a strong magnet over a mixture of metal scraps pulls out the ferromagnetic materials and leaves the brass behind.
To listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir perform Carol of the Bells: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrW2Jm6JKXc
More information about brass may be found at http://www.copperinfo.co.uk/alloys/brass/