Ringing stalactites create strange ethereal sounds from this huge musical instrument.
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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.
What makes the echoing sound of these caves unusual, is the way the different chambers are connected together.
(7 Votes, average 3.43)Loading...
The Bell Caves have a unique sound. What makes the Bell Caves unusual and worth a visit is the acoustic effect created by the connections between the chambers. As the sound moves between the large chambers along the passageways, a very distinctive reverberance is heard, as sound sloshes about from one chamber to another.
The caves were quarries which were excavated at different times in history, but it is claimed some date back to the 4th century B.C. The walls are made of beige coloured limestone.
Legend has it that the funnel shape of this cavern allowed the whispers of prisioners be overheard.
(10 Votes, average 3.20)Loading...
This large limestone cave has a great sound legend attached to it. The story goes that the tyrant Dionysius (ca. 432–367 BC) used this place as a prison. The wedge shape of the cavern caused peoples’ conversations to be focussed and amplified at the roof of the cave, 22m above the floor. Supposedly this enabled guards to spy on prisoners by listening to the amplified sound through a small hidden opening at the top of the cave: even when the prisoners spoke in whispers.
“The tearing of a piece of paper makes a noise not unlike that occasioned by knocking a heavy stick against a stone” Conrad Malte-Brun, 1829.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to hear the effect because of safety fears; in the past travellers were hosted up by rope and pulley to the opening. Consequently, a modern listener is just left to enjoy the reverberance at ground level, marvel at the legend and take in the cavern’s ear-like shape.
Gino Iannace and collaborators  have made measurements and test whether the spying myth is true. Rather disappointing, they found that any whispered conversations were unintelligible and lost in a blur of reverberation. The sound sample at the top of the page was reconstructed from their measurements. Even with carefully enunciated speech, it is hard to understand what is being said.
This video has good sound, but for some reason has been shot on its side.