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

Sea organ

The organ buried in the promenade makes a haunting but harmonious sound through the motion of the sea.

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Driven by waves this organ creates notes at random. Despite the unpredictability of the sounds, overall what is heard is surprisingly harmonious. This happens because the different organ pipes have been carefully tuned to only produce certain musical notes that sound good together [1].

The sculpture is seventy meters long and has thirty-five organ pipes built under the concrete; as you move along the promenade the sounds and harmonies change. The movement of the waves push air in and out of the organ pipes to create the notes. It was designed by architect Nikola Bašić.

Location

Visit Zadar website.

There is a wave organ in San Francisco and also a high tide organ in Blackpool. But the Zadar organ is the most tuneful and effective.

Credits