NEXUS member Garry Kvistad is into chimes. He is the founder and CEO of Woodstock Chimes and he created the beautiful out-sized wind chimes that are used in NEXUS’ signature piece From me flows what you call Time by Toru Takemitsu. How did this come to be? Allow me to share with you the oft-repeated “landfill lawnchair tale”.
In the early 1970s Garry was teaching at Northern Illinois University and while there he enrolled in a course on instrument making. Being short on cash for his new hobby, he visited a local landfill site, looking for any type of metal with a quality sound to it. He spied a pile of discarded lawn chairs, and the rest (as they say) is history. Garry used the tubular metal to craft a metallophone (much like a xylophone but made with metal rather than wood). Garry says he actually played The Chair-o-phone (at least, that’s my term for it!) on tour along with other instruments he had made. To find a soundbyte of the melodius lawn chair, visit the “About Us” section of his website and scroll down to A History of Woodstock Chimes: The Adapted Lawn Chair Story.
Soon Garry was thinking about a type of instrument that more people could enjoy. He was fascinated by the Scale of Olympos, a 7th century BC Greek pentatonic scale. It cannot be played on today’s piano, but Garry says ” I really wanted to hear the Scale of Olympos. So I came up with the idea of cutting and tuning the lawn chair tubes to the exact frequency of the scale, and created a wind chime from the tubes. It was the perfect instrument that the wind could play randomly, and you don’t need formal musical training to appreciate the beautiful sound.” (You can listen to the Olympos chimes here by clicking on “Listen”).
Garry and his wife Diane moved to the Hudson Valley in 1979, and continued making wind chimes at their kitchen table, but demand was strong. “I soon realized that there’s only a limited quantity of used lawn chairs in the world,” says Garry. And so began the building of a company that by the late 1980s was selling wind chimes across the USA and internationally. His first major commission was a giant chime for the County Courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama. Then in 1990, Takemitsu commissioned two custom sets of Woodstock Chimes for the special performance by NEXUS and the Boston Symphony Orchestra commemorating the 100th anniversary of Carnegie Hall. Garry was not yet a member of NEXUS and indeed did not join NEXUS until a good 12 years later. The exquisite chimes continue to be used whenever and wherever NEXUS performs Takemitsu’s From me flows what you call Time. Garry was also commissioned to build a memorial to former students of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. It consists of a lovely natural wood gazebo housing a massive collection of Chimes tuned to notes from the hymn Beautiful Savior, the St. Olaf Choir’s signature song. Another interesting use of Garry’s chimes are in The Paul Winter Consort’s revolving “Solstice Tree” musical sculpture.
Today, there is a vast array of Woodstock Chimes, precision-tuned to scales and melodies from musical cultures around the world. For example, there is a truly giant chime outside the Woodstock Factory that is tuned to a Balinese scale. Then there is the King David Chime that one happy customer reported he had hung in a tree on his farm. “Due to its calming effect” now the chickens were producing twice as many eggs and the goats were giving double the milk. You can’t argue with success!