Few things are as relaxing as the soft tinkling of wind chimes in a gentle breeze. As soon as I hear the first note, if the breeze is strong enough, I know I will soon experience a rainbow of harmonious sound. But, sometimes, there are only one or two notes being lightly played, and that can bring on a kind of reverie that is close to being poetic.
Wind chimes are percussion instruments that are composed of suspended metal tubes, bells, or other sound producing materials such as wood, bamboo, or glass. The tubes or bells, etc. are suspended by cords along with some type of weight that has a surface capable of being moved by a breeze and causing it to randomly strike the tubes or other sound-making parts of the instrument. Because of the unpredictable ways the wind can blow, the sound of wind chimes is an example of something called chance-based music.
Thousands of years ago wind chimes probably began as noise-makers that farmers placed in their fields (along with the ever-present scarecrow) to keep hungry birds from eating their crops. But while these early devices may have just jingled, jangled, and clunked, eventually someone recognized their musical potential and things took off from there.
Early wind-chime like devices were found throughout India and other parts of southeast Asia. Later, around 1100 BCE, the Chinese began to cast metal bells and hung more musical types of wind chimes from the many corners of large pagodas. These chimes were tasked with the jobs of scaring away birds and evil spirits as well as attracting benevolent spirits and, thus, good luck.
At some point, wind chimes were introduced to Japan where they were placed in temples and gardens. The Japanese would eventually make small wind chimes, called “furin,” out of blown glass, and these have come to be a symbol of the summer season throughout that country. Many people in Japan say the tinkling sound of these devices makes them feel cooler so that the hot, humid days of summer are more bearable.
Fast forward to modern day America, where computer technology made it possible to produce musical wind chimes tuned to whatever notes and melodies the maker desires—everything from the notes of the song “Amazing Grace” to a sound inspired by the chants of Gregorian monks. This led to the wide variety of wind chimes now available to add their pleasant melodies to the porch, the patio and the garden; as well as being used as memorials in cemeteries, installations in art parks, elements of Feng shui treatments, and even as an instrument in a hit record by The Beatles (Abbey Road).
Many scientific studies have demonstrated that the pleasant sounds of bells and wind chimes can generate feelings of increased well-being and reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, one researcher claims that the tinkling of a high-pitched wind chime can bring out an awareness of the sweetness in food, which may be a way to get fussy children to eat their Brussel sprouts and other veggies.
You can enhance your own experience of the wind chime’s music by directing your full attention to the enchanting sounds you are hearing and the breeze you are feeling as it moves across your skin. Then, without thinking, just relax and appreciate this moment of beauty. In this way, even if the chimes don’t attract the good spirits hoped for by the ancients, they will certainly lift your spirits, and make your day a bit brighter.
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