David Ritt: Wind Chimes
In this, the Spring of the coronavirus pandemic, I sit on the catio with my wife and our cats Buster and Emily, and listen to our pentatonic wind chimes. When the wind picks up enough, they convert the wind to music, producing an infinite variety of pitch, volume, and rhythm.
Their eight notes are, from bottom to top, A, C, E, G, A, C, D, and E. If you’re not familiar with the pentatonic scale, go to a keyboard instrument and play any five adjacent black keys. Pentatonic pitch sets have the interesting quality of sounding melodic in any sequence.
The chimes are one of my oldest possessions. They were made by a percussionist in Tacoma, Seattle’s southern sister. Unlike most wind chimes, they are in tune with each other. For a musician, that makes the difference between pleasure and torment.
The chimes are tubular steel, originally strung on small loops of fishing line. Over the course of my various moves, the fishing line gave up the ghost, so the chimes were relegated to a cardboard box, ringing only when jarred, an unsustained clank like a spectre out of Dickens.
Several years ago, my friend Ron offered to restring them for me. They now live happily on the catio - a shelter in place for Buster and Emily to enjoy the outdoors without risking the hazards of cars, raccoons, and coyotes, and without posing a danger to songbirds. I wonder how the cats perceive the ringing. My brain interprets it as music, albeit chance music. I doubt that Buster and Emily feel the same, but we don’t speak each other’s language, so I’ll never know.
Ron is gone several years now. When I think of him, I remember his voice booming the words “Not! Necessarily!” He often used that phrase when questioned by conductors in symphony rehearsals. He was a percussionist, a job which included playing the chimes. On windy days, he still does.