Great Stalacpipe Organ, USA

Ringing stalactites create strange ethereal sounds from this huge musical instrument.

1 Star, yawn2 Stars, OK3 Stars, interesting4 Stars, worth a detour5 Stars, worth a journey
(8 Votes, average 4.25)
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This is a bizarre musical instrument. It was dreamt up and painstakingly constructed by Leland Sprinkle, a mathematician and electronic engineer in the 1950s. Rocks that ring have been used as musical instruments for thousands of years. But this is the only lithophone I know of based on stalactites.

It’s claimed to be the largest natural musical instrument in the world, generating a beautiful, ghostly and disorientating sound. The cave acoustics make it difficult to locate where the sounds are coming from. 37 stalactites produce the different notes of a musical scale. But the tuning isn’t entirely natural, as some sanding of the natural formations was needed to get the notes exactly in tune. Small rubber hammers strike the stalactites; these are electronically controlled by an organ keyboard.

Locations and logistics

Luray Cavern’s website with opening hours etc.

Credits and sources

  1. Sound released by Luray Caverns into public domain
  2. Photo: KristopherM (c) some rights reserved
  3. Photo:lossanjose (c) some rights reserved

Author: Trevor Cox

I am a Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford where I carry out research and teaching focussing on architectural acoustics, signal processing and audio perception. I am also an author and radio broadcaster having presented many documentaries on BBC radio and written books for academics and the general public.

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