Celesta Facts

Celesta Facts
The celesta is a musical instrument from the percussion family but it is often included in the keyboard section of an orchestra. The celesta looks like a piano or an oversize music box, and sound is made by keys striking hammers that then strike metal plates that are suspended over resonators. Instruments with only three octaves do not have pedals but those with four or five octaves usually do have a pedal that serves to dampen or sustain the sound. The instrument's name 'celeste' means 'heavenly' in the French language and it was given the name because of the soft sound it produces. The most famous composition with the celesta is likely "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" by Tchaikovsky. The first to use the celesta in a small orchestra composition was Ernest Chausson in 1888.
Interesting Celesta Facts:
The inventors of the celesta are considered to be Auguste Mustel, a Parisian harmonium, and his father Victor Mustel. Auguste invented the celesta in 1886, from an earlier design of an instrument called the typophone, which his father Victor had invented in 1860.
The typophone had tuning forks instead of metal plates like the celesta, which limited its sound and use.
The sound bars of the celesta are usually made from steel. The keys on the keyboard strike the hammers above, which strike the steel. The steel bars rest on hollow wood resonators. The sound is mellow, warm, and rich.
Playing the celesta is similar to playing the piano with keys and a pedal. The pedal is used when playing to prolong the notes' sound.
The celesta is similar to the glockenspiel but it has a warmer and rounder sound.
The celesta does not produce loud sound and it does not have the same dynamic range as a piano.
The celesta is normally used for passages that are meant to sound gentle and soft as it produces piercing music when played hard.
The celesta is often combined with woodwind and high string instruments, and the harp.
The first major composer to use the celesta in a major symphony work was Pyotr Tchaikovsky in his 1891 symphonic poem The Voyevoda.
Tchaikovsky used the celesta in The Nutcracker - one of the most famous ballets in history.
Famous works that have featured the celesta include Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 6, George Gershwin's An American in Paris, and Morton Feldman's For Philip Guston.
The celesta is also used in music styles other than orchestras and classical music. It has been featured in jazz music by Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and Herbie Hancock.
Modern and contemporary, pop, and rock musicians have also included the celesta in their music. These musicians and bands have included Buddy Holly, The Beatles, The Association, The Beach Boys, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, and Fiona Apple.
The celesta was used for the song Pure Imagination that Gene Wilder sang in the movie Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in 1971.
The celesta was used for some of the music for the children's show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

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