Try your hand at rock music on this Victorian instrument played by the “Original Monstre Stone Band.”
Queen Victoria heard command performances of Handel, Mozart and Rossini on this large stone xylophone. It took Joseph Richardson thirteen years to construct this lithophone out of hornfels slate from the Lake District. The vast instrument is in the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery in Cumbria, where I was amazed to be encouraged to have a go. The tone varies across the instrument. Some stones ring beautifully, like a wooden xylophone, while others make more of a thunk, like a beer bottle being struck with a stick.
One historical account recalls, ‘The tones produced are equal in quality, and sometimes superior in mellowness and fulness, to those of a fine piano-forte, under the hand of a skilful player.’
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.