Wind Chimes (1987) (for tape)

Denis Smalley

Centre for Electroacoustic Music Studies
Music Department
City University


The main sound source for 'Wind Chimes' is a set of ceramic chimes found in a pottery during a visit to New Zealand in 1984. It was not so much the ringing pitches which were attractive but rather the bright, gritty, rich, almost metallic qualities of a single struck pipe or a pair of scraped pipes. These qualities proved a very fruitful basis for many transformations which prised apart and reconstituted their interior spectral design. Not that the listener is supposed to or can always recognise the source, but in this case it is audible in its natural state near the beginning of the piece, and the ceramic quality is never far away throughout. Complementary materials were gathered to expand the piece's sound-families, among them very high metallic Japanese wind chimes, resonant metal bars, interior piano sounds, and some digital synthesis. The piece is centred on strong attacking gestures, types of real and imaginary physical motion (spinning, rotating objects, resonances which sound as if scraped or bowed, for example), contrasted with layered, more spacious, sustained textures whose poignant dips hint at a certain melancholy.

'Wind Chimes' was commissioned by the South Bank Centre, London, and was given its first performance in the Electric Weekend at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The computer transformations were carried out in the Digital Studio of the Groupe de Recherches Musicales, Paris, and the piece was mixed in the Electroacoustic Music Studio at the University of East Anglia. label.