Wind Chimes

Denis Smalley

Wind Chimes

  • Denis Smalley
  • Year of composition: 1987
  • Duration: 15:10
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Commission: South Bank Centre
  • ISWC: T0100613873

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. Taking a single sound source and getting as much out of it as possible has always been one of my key methods for developing sonic coherence in a piece. Not that the listener is supposed to or can always recognize the source, but in this case the source is audible in its natural state near the beginning of the piece, and that ceramic quality is never far away throughout. Eventually, complementary materials were gathered in as the piece’s sound-families began to expand, among them a bass drum, very high metallic Japanese wind chimes, resonant metal bars, interior piano sounds, and some digital synthesis. The piece is centered 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 realized in the Electroacoustic Music Studio of the University of East Anglia (UK) in 1987, with computer sound transformations carried out on the digital system of Studio 123 of the Groupe de recherches musicales (GRM) in Paris (France) in 1986. It premiered during the Electric Weekend at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on September 11, 1987. This piece was first released in 1990 on the Computer Music Current #5 compact disc on the Wergo label (WER 2025-2). Wind Chimes was commissioned by the South Bank Centre, London (UK).


  • September 11, 1987, Electric Weekend, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London (England, UK)