A complaint occasionally heard about wind turbines is that they produce low-frequency sounds that are disturbing to some people. According to an ariticle in The British Wind Energy Association (PDF) this is just a myth, but what if you like the sounds that wind can make? An amazing range of artistry and invention exists in the world of wind music making. There is often an eerie quality to the sound, reminiscent of science fiction movies. I like to imagine these wind sounds are the music from the earth gaia herself.
The Plastorgan shown in the above photo fascinates me the most because it’s free, keeps some plastic bottles out of the landfill, encourages people to unleash hidden talent, and makes for more interesting neighborhoods. All you need to do is make one slit of a certain size in the side of a plastic bottle, paint it with a cool design, put the cap on the bottle and glue or somehow fasten the cap to a bamboo pole and stick the pole in your garden or yard – the more the better, with all different sizes of bottles and slits to create a wide range of tones and timbres. Check out the sound of the above grouping here. You can see more samples and info on how to build your own plastic bottle wind organ as well as other kinds of wind organs and harps here. Here is another link in which a few people share their experiences with these plastic wind organs.
For those adventurous souls who want to try this for themselves, here are some guidelines for the cuts you make, and the types of sound produced.
- These cuts must have perfectly parallel edges.
- Overall recommended dimensions: 8-20 cm high, 6-17 mm wide (note different measurement units!)
- A slit of 8 cm by 10 mm produces a deep sound except when the wind picks up and brings the sound one octave higher.
- A slit of 11 cm by 9 mm gives a medium sound, relatively clear within a wide range of wind speeds and directions.
- A slit of 20 cm by 6 mm gives a shrill whistle but requires wind blowing at precisely the right angle.
- A slit of 16 cm by 17 mm will deliver a hoarse sound.
This is a fun project for a summer afternoon. All you need are a handful of plastic bottles with caps, some Sugru, and some bamboo canes, dowels, or posts. Use a utility knife, an Xacto (or similar hobby knife), or sharp scissors to cut the bottles. Decorate the bottles with paint or markers, and make sure to get the kids involved! When finished with cutting and decorating, affix the bottles onto the posts with the slot oriented so that prevailing wind blows across rather than directly at it. Different types of bottles produce different sounds: larger bottles with more rigid walls will moan with deeper tones. Smaller bottles sound more shrill. We advise starting out with a variety of bottle types and sizes, and adjusting your wind organ’s composition and placement until you’re pleased with its symphony. Remember to place your wind organ somewhere the wind can reach it – not beside a fence, a wall, or a hedge.
If you want something a bit more sophisticated than plastic bottles then your options are wide open. There are many resources available from extremely expensive wind sound sculpture to affordable garden wind harps.
One site, mohicanwindharps.com offers a number of reasonably priced contemporary wind harps as well as the traditional Aeolian Harp, one of the oldest known musical instruments made by the ancient Greeks. You can listen to the sound one of these harps makes here.