When it comes right down to defining what they are, wind chimes are classified as bells. A bell is considered a percussion device, since it must be struck somehow to create the tone sent out when the body of it vibrates. Whether it is struck by hand, by a clapper, set in motion by the wind, or moved in the age-old tradition of bell ringers, it rings out with varying degrees of volume and tone, harmonic in modern times.
If you are in the mood to make your eyes cross, you can delve into the mysteries of inharmonic (partial multiples of the fundamental frequencies) versus harmonic (whole multiples). It is however, safe to say that modern bells are harmonic, having been crafted carefully to produce a given sound or tone, generally one that needs to be adjusted during the casting. A bell that is hung “as is”, may very well chime nicely, but is still referred to as a “maiden bell”.
Why are we talking bells you ask, when the topic is wind chimes? Because when you come right down to it, wind chimes are also bells. They are struck to make tones, and while not the traditional shape, have a history nearly as rich as that of the bell.
Imagine Man hitting his club against something…anything! And noting the sound. Somewhere along the road to civilization we found these sounds pleasing and began creating objects that would reproduce the sounds, specifically – bells. There is evidence of bell making that can be traced back to prehistoric times, with the first physical evidence of rudimentary bells dated somewhere around 3,000B.C. in the southeastern regions of Asia. Another thousand years and they had made their way through the Mediterranean and were even being cast in bronze and other materials in Egypt. China was also casting bells in bronze around the same time in 1600B.C. They were some of the first to evidence a difference in the sound, having two tones.
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