My Wind Chimes Story



Wind chimes are one of the most fascinating possessions for a person who is musically inclined. My husband and I often go looking for them whenever we go shopping (which happens to be atleast twice a week – for the fun of it) and by now we have a decent collection at home, some hanging on the deck and some inside the house too. It tends to get very windy these days mainly because of the snowstorms and blizzards coming our way, and the entire day we are privy to some remarkable musical notes. Often those that have never been composed and more often than not those that have been exclusively created just for us, baroque style! It’s pleasing to the ears and the senses; rhythmic, at times soft and at times almost building up to a crescendo, but ringing away the whole day and making the atmosphere scintillatingly musical.

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The history of Wind Chimes

Wind chimes date back to the prehistoric times. Deriving pleasure out of objects hanging from a branch has been an age old delight. In the beginning wind chimes were as simple as seashells or stones hung together so they could clash and create sounds. In ancient China wind chimes were a fundamental part of Feng Shui which is the Asian art of object placement that was designed to enhance positive energy in the house or garden. Wind chimes were often also used as a Feng Shui cure to disperse off stagnant energy or send negative energy away. Later, metal wind chimes became a significant element of Chinese religious rituals, especially when the culture became proficient at metal working. Around 1000 B.C. they learned how to forge iron and began creating ritual bells for use in religious ceremonies. Post 400 B.C. wind chimes also found their way into Japan. The Japanese practice a form of Feng Shui that is related to the Shinto religion, where bells and wind chimes were used to summon nature spirits as well as disperse negative energy from homes and other places. In the Roman culture, wind chimes were called tintinnabulum, usually made of bronze and were hung in gardens, courtyards, and porticoes where the wind movement caused them to tinkle. They believed that the bells would ward off wicked spirits.  In India too they are hung on the corner of temples to ward off malevolent spirits. Wind chimes became a decorative art for inside the home only after the nineteenth century.

The difference between Japanese and Chinese wind chimes is that the Chinese ones were usually made of iron. The Japanese produced a wind chime made of bronze bells called a dokatu that was used to enhance the energy in their temples and gardens. Later on the Japanese also developed lighter wind chimes made from a combination of glass, metal or ceramic and were hand painted as well. We see many such types nowadays, sold more as a work of art and decorative object than just an element to produce various types of sounds.

The making of Wind Chimes

Wind chimes were made out of different types of materials. Traditionally they were made of metal, shell, stone and bamboo and in recent times; glass, plastic, copper, recycled silverware and ceramic also are used. The Romans added the phallus (an image or representation of an erect penis, typically symbolizing fertility or potency) which was considered a symbol of good fortune and a charm against the evil eye. Sometimes elements like the tail of a lion were also added to the chimes as they were believed to increase the wind chime’s protective powers. But, bamboo wind chimes are ageless. They have existed from prehistoric times and are prevalent everywhere in Asia from Bali to Tibet to Malaysia. They were mainly placed on the roofs of Buddhist temples. Sometimes hundreds or even thousands of wind chimes would be attached to a temple to create an orchestral sound from the wind.

Wind Chimes – Art or Science?

Wind chimes are not only a work of art, but there is a lot of science that goes into the making of wind chimes to ensure that they achieve specific musical notes. There are formulas that help predict the proper length of the tubes to attain the perfect note. Sounds produced by properly sized wind chimes are like pleasant tinkling and very likeable. Sounds are produced when the tubes come in contact with the suspended central clapper in the form of a horizontal disk or a ball, or just with each other. The longest and loudest sounding chimes are produced by aluminium tubes and hence aluminium is very often used in making good wind chimes. Wind chimes have also been used in modern music and are listed as a percussion instrument. Many artists and composers use them while composing music.

Like me, are you a fan of wind chimes too? Do share your love for them in your comments. Until then, happy wind chiming!

Featured Image Source: Flickr

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