Wind chimes - constantly creating new music and new harmonies. If you've read about me below, you know I am a classically trained musician. Until I can afford weatherproof speakers or a resident string quartet, wind chimes are where my two passions coincide.
Wind chimes add the dimension of sound to your garden. Every garden should have at least one wind chime, if not a dozen or more. There are many different types. Some are bright, colorful souvenirs of a far-away place to which you may or may not have traveled, some are harmonically tuned to specific pitches. Many are homemade. But they all possess the same essential components:
WIND CHIME BASICS
A platform - a flat, level piece from which everything hangs, although it often appears purely decorative, this piece is critical structurally!
The clapper - a freely swinging piece inside the chimes which strikes them. The chimes can be designed to hit each other instead of needing a clapper, although the sound is sometimes less pure.
The chimes - typically tubes of aluminum or other metal, these can also run the gamut from glass or seashells to bamboo, like the one in the first picture, above.
The weight, or wind sail - this causes the wind chime to hang straight and is often shaped like a sail, to catch any passing breeze
And of course, this is all held together with some type of cord or fine gauge wire.
The wind chime pictured on the left is our most serious, esoteric wind chime. It hangs outside our bedroom window and plays lullabies all night, warns us if a storm is coming, and accompanies our most intimate conversations. It is tuned to the Dorian scale by the J. W. Stannard Company, one of the many high-end companies manufacturing wind chimes today.
At the other extreme is the colorful butterfly wind chime pictured on the right, which cost only one dollar, reports my Canadian friend, fellow DG writer Lee Anne Stark. (I guess it would be colourful, and I imagine it was $1 Canadian.)
Up next on my short wind chime tour is another of the wind chimes from our yard, pictured left. Again labeled as in the Dorian scale, this time the platform and weight are not made of wood. When the wind blows this chime, the delightful tinkles are not quite as an angelic as the one outside our bedroom. It does, however, gain points for the pretty undulations of the ornament above the platform.
I think our most artistic wind chime would be the next one, on the right, made of cross sections of pipe cut on the diagonal and polished. It is truly lovely when the sunlight twinkles off one of its shiny curves. Although it lacks a clapper or a weight, slight gusts of wind knock these pieces of pipe against each other. They are carefully arranged only to chime against each other and never to clank (a technical term describing three or more objects hitting each other simultaneously), but only to chime.
Last in this brief series is a miniature windchime which is actually a refrigerator magnet! This one is also supplied by Lee Anne Stark. Tiny though it is, it still chimes! (The chimes knock against each other, and the picture is, of course, not to scale.)
HANGING A WIND CHIME:
If you've ever played the triangle, you'll remember that the instrument can't touch anything else, but has to hang freely. The same is true of a wind chime. Wind chimes that lie against tree trunks or rest against houses will not be able to resonate freely. Hang your wind chime where it touches nothing and nothing touches it. That way its sonorous waves will continue echoing off the air molecules.
WIND CHIME RESOURCES:
My local everything store is having a 50% off sale on all summer stuff right now, including all the wind chimes pictured. Yours probably is too, so hurry over and just pick out a wind chime that you like the looks of and that you enjoy listening to a lot. Be prepared to take it inside for the winter if you really like it and if it's not as sturdy as mine, which has withstood many Nor'easters.
Many companies which cater to online purchasers have .mp3 or .wav files available to listen to on their websites, and they're having sales now too. Please go to Eco Wind Chimes and listen to the different sounds. One of the important musical effects you're hearing - or at least you should be hearing - in a wind chime is the overtones* created; the sounds that linger on after the fundamental sound has ceased.
I would particularly like you to notice how the sound changes as the tubes get longer (or as the price increases). This is one of the basic principles of sound physics which Pythagoras discovered thousands of years ago. You'll notice the same principle at work when you blow into a bottle - a larger bottle produces a deeper sound. A longer tube - on a trumpet, or a tuba - produces a deeper sound too. And it only follows that a longer tube or chime will produce a deeper sound. Luckily for our bank account, my husband prefers the bright, tinkly, higher frequency sounds of the smaller, less expensive, higher pitched wind chimes!
MAKING YOUR OWN WIND CHIMES
Making your own wind chimes ought to be a fairly straightforward, although you cannot just pick up a stick and glue sea shells to it, hang it from a string, and expect it to sound like anything. My kids have tried this method, and I can report that it doesn't work. However, following any one of the numerous instructions available online carefully ought to work (try these from Lowe's). Then you can attach your souvenir sea shells on top of the platform, or hang them from the weight to blow in the wind.
SOME ONLINE SOURCES
I cannot personally endorse any of these vendors, but they are all anxious to sell you their products!
There are certainly many many more, such as Eco Wind Chimes, who graciously allowed me to use their sound files. If you really want to purchase a top-notch wind chime, visit a number of these sites, and see which names recur, such as Woodstock, Stannard, Music of the Spheres, or Blanchard. Listen to their sound files. Some stores put their sound files right out front, and some bury them beneath layers of pretty pictures.
My conclusion, therefore, is that everyone who doesn't have a wind chime already should have one to keep you company while you garden.Whether you choose to spend $3000 for the expensive, top-of-the-line, massive wind chime that can be heard by the neighbors, or $1 for a little tinkly thing from your local everything store is a matter of personal taste and preference. Maybe you prefer the mellow sound of copper pipes and the oak tree that you cut down yourself. Whichever you choose, know this: you need a wind chime.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Sadly, the wind chime I describe as "artistic" above, made of cross-sections of pipe, did not survive the rainy summer of 2008, although the previous winter did not seem to bother it. The moral of that story is to check the integrity of the chimes you love the most more frequently!
*This is neither a scientifically nor musically accurate explanation of overtones. If you really want to know, contact me and I will explain, but it's NOT about gardening.
About Carrie Lamont
Carrie clicks on EVERY link. She has two beautiful daughters, and has been married for twelve delightful years. Her husband works for an airline, facilitating Carrie's frequent need to travel. She has a masters degree in Music, and hums to herself as she gazes out wistfully at her full-sun containers from her air-conditioned interior. Carrie just moved from Massachusetts to Texas and is still recovering.