Gong rocks, Serengeti National Park

This granite boulder makes a metallic clang and is covered in percussive marks.

Musical artefacts provide some evidence of what our ancestors’ listened to. Unlikely as it may seem, some large boulders can ring with a metallic clang when struck with another stone. Hammered indents on large boulders like this one in the Serengeti show us that the rocks were struck and played in the past. Some of these rock gongs are assumed to date back to antiquity, but getting exact dates of use from percussion marks is difficult.


North eastern end of the Moru Kopjes area, with the Mbalageti river a short distance east of it. You can also find rock gongs at other sites in Africa.


Seronera photo courtesy of Tripadvisor

High tide organ

A ‘musical manifestation of the sea’ is created by this sound sculpture.

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Built in 2002 and designed by Liam Curtin and John Gooding, this organ stands next to Blackpool’s promenade. A narrow tall rusting sculpture shaped like a fern in spring beginning to unfurl, forms the most visible section of the wave organ. The sculpture uses church organ pipes that are sounded by air being forced through them by the ebb and flow of the sea waves. The music made depends on the vigour of the sea, sometimes it intermittently moans and groans, at other times it resembles a lazy orchestra of train whistles, or a slow-action replay of a nightmare recorder lesson.


South Promenade, Blackpool FY4 1BB. Sounds best 2-3 hours before or after high tide. If the sea is calm, you won’t hear anything!

Musical Stones of Skiddaw

Try your hand at rock music on this Victorian instrument played by the “Original Monstre Stone Band.”

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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.

Original advert from the London Gazette in 1845

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.’


Keswick Museum, England

Great Stalacpipe Organ, USA

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.

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