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Harmony Trails: musical instruments built into the trail

"Using musical instruments in natural settings to renew the spirit and rediscover the soul."

By Pam Siegler, Mulberry, TN

photo: tubular chimes haning from a branch
Stainless steel tubes make a trailside instrument

The idea to design musical instruments to build into nature trails was "given" to my heart about four years ago. I lived on 135 acres in Moore County, Tennessee. The house was in a "holler" and surrounded by woods and grassy hillsides. Bird songs, dog barks, wind chimes, and music from my guitar, flutes and drums all resounded from the front porch like they were in some special sound chamber.

I wondered if I could create other musical resonances elsewhere on the varied terrain that could sound equally as magical. I sang and played as I hiked the woods and ridge tops, amazed at how the sound changed with the landscape.

Wouldn't it be cool, I thought, if anyone could add music to the experiences around them? Wouldn't it be cooler still to have someone who has stopped to play an instrument on a trail be joined in "musical conversation" with someone who is playing somewhere else? The two may never meet face to face but will have shared a unique communication using the language of the soul.

My first project presented itself when I encountered a fallen tree caught in a woody vine. I had acquired some slightly imperfect stainless steel tubes from a guy who mounted trolling motors on boats. After removing the imperfections, I cut the tubes and hung them from the log in sequence from lowest pitch to highest. (~3.5' to ~10") Anything on the trail can be used to strike the tubes. A stone produces a bright tone... a stick produces a more mellow tone.

photo of xylophone hanging from tree
The vertical wooden xylophone is played with mallets

The vertical wooden xylophone above is a tuned G major diatonic scale. The wood I used to make this was pine. It is suspended from a cedar stick that has been tied between the two black walnut trees. Mallets are stored in a weatherproof bag the hangs from the bottom. The instrument is then secured by taking the remaining rope and tying it around a large rock on the ground to keep it still.

The instrument is on a ridge top overlooking a beautiful valley. I think this instrument should be created from the kind of wood that is indigenous to the area it is to be played in. That way the natural vibrational energy of the wood augments the energy of its surroundings.


photo: tall wind chimes
Setp inside the square to play the four long chimes and feel the vibrations

I originally started out making a large wind chime... but when I stepped inside the four different lengths of pipe and tested the sound the low, long resonance was so soothing I felt the vibrations move right through me. I decided the best use for this instrument would be to use it as a healing station.

Step inside, unclip the woodburned rhythm sticks and play all the tubes or only one...whatever works best for you! The pipes all have "go inside" painted on them. The corian square has a sun and moon etched in it. The corners are notched for the ropes. A piece of leather protects the tree limb from rope burn. Each pipe also carries one of the following messages: Play, Feel, Listen, Heal.


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