Wind Chimes. How do they chime with you? It seems they split opinion right down the middle – people either love them or they hate them.
They don’t always hit the right note with neighbours, that’s for sure. They’ve even led to legal action, where the chimes have been so loud, they breached noise nuisance levels.
In fact, a survey of UK homeowners a few years back found that of all the noises caused by our neighbours, it was the constant tinkling of wind chimes that irritated the most.
So why do homeowners choose to have them in their gardens? And why were they invented in the first place?
Wind chimes have been used for thousands of years. Ironically, given the mixed modern-day attitudes towards them, wind chimes were believed to promote feelings of peace and well-being when they became popular in Southeast Asia in ancient times. They were also regarded as important within Buddhism. The Romans, meanwhile, used bronze wind chimes, which they called tintinnabulum, as a protection against bad spirits.
You name it, and wind chimes have made out of it: wood, bamboo, metals, earthenware and, notably in Japan, glass. Archaeologists have unearthed wind chimes from 1,000 years BC that were made of bones, stones and shells – materials all widely and freely available.
At some point, wind chimes headed West and became popular in homes and gardens in the US and Europe. It’s thought that they might have had a practical purpose in farming, scaring birds away from crops.
Today, they are often used for feng shui, which is why they’ve become indoor as well as outdoor features. But they’re not called wind chimes for nothing and their natural habitat is outside.
What makes wind chimes so wondrous to those who love them is, of course, the music they make. Tubes of varying lengths are suspended by string or wire from a circular platform. In the middle is a clapper. The pitch of each tube depends on the length, as well as the material. Big, long tubes create deep notes; slim, short tubes hit higher notes. But although metal and wooden tubes can be fine-tuned, their music will still retain a randomness, with the wind acting as their conductor.
The biggest wind chime in the world is in Casey, Illinois, USA, where they have a metal wind chime suspended almost 50ft off the ground. It has five pipes between 42ft and 30ft and was made by a local man, James Bolin, as a way of putting the small town on the map. He succeeded – it has become a major tourist attraction.
Our top tip? Probably best not to do this at home – that will upset the neighbours! And if you do choose to have wind chimes in your garden, for the sake of harmony, you might want to consider bringing them indoors at night.