Monday, 23 March 2009

Knock knock

When you were young did you ever ring doorbells just for a laugh? I confess I didn't. I was almost certainly too scared but, in my defence, I must point out that front paths are much longer in the suburbs where I lived than they are in town and city centres where terraced streets are the norm. If you did, did all the bells sound the same? Doorbells have certainly gone through changes in style over the years from manually pulled or cranked to electronic novelty ringtones. My own front door has a knocker instead of a bell. Both door and knocker are identical to those belonging to the flat upstairs. The doors are right next to each other and, even after ten years, I am occasionally confused.

Today I saw a beautiful old knocker, featuring a Madonna and child (presumably), on a door to a tiny cottage which now forms part of the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich. I found myself wondering if the tykes of yesteryear took any pleasure in the range of sounds produced by their mischief as they ran from door to door. The lack of either standardisation or mass-production must have made for a greater number of variables – type and thickness of wood, weight and material of the knocker, size of door, dimensions of chamber within etc. I would even venture that the variety was broader in its extent than any number of digitally stored chimes. I mean we're hardly talking high fidelity sound reproduction unless you are a real enthusiast (and I've yet to meet one). So if anyone fancies sponsoring the sampling, photographing and cataloguing of the world's door knockers I would be very interested to know. I think it would generate all sorts of fascinating insights and social commentary. Does anyone else share this interest? Does this qualify as disappearing sound or will door knockers stage a come-back? Do you have a sound interest of your own?


  1. Hi Jonathan, if I hear any interesting traditional ones here in rural France, I'll let you know!

    I had a brass lion knocker on my door when I lived in Staines, but it was modern and I fitted it myself. I imagine that the sound is also highly dependent on the resonances of the door it is fixed to.

  2. Thank you, Cogitator. My own is circa 1985 and not pictured. I think enough samples of different examples could make for an interesting piece of music, especially if they were graded for pitch, sustain, resonance, attack etc I feel an arty animation coming on...

  3. You could call it "knock knock knocker on seven doors"

  4. Knockabilly - the sound of the future?