Music in the caves

“The Sunday Express”

London 1st February 1970

NEW sound of music swells out in the vast underground Luray Caves in Virginia, U.S.A. The sound comes from centuries-old stalactites hanging from the roof as engineer Leland Sprinkle touches the keyboard of the organ.

Sprinkle, who is also a musician, has “harnessed” dozens of stalactites to take the place of organ pipes. He got the idea on a tour of the caves when he saw a guide strike one of the stalactites with a stick to make it vibrate and produce a humming sound.

Sprinkle has since spent many hours selecting and tuning stalactites. This is done by filing them into shape, using a tuning-fork to get the notes absolutely accurate.

Each stalactite is connected to a control panel in the roof of the caves. When the organist presses a key, an electronic signal goes out to operate a rubber-tipped hammer which strikes the appropriate stalactite.

The sound produced is rather like that of a church organ, but the music echoes weirdly through the caves in such a way that it is often difficult to tell exactly where it is coming from.

The organ, now installed permanently for the benefit of tourists, can be played manually or switched to an automatic system rather like that of a pianola.

With thanks to Charles Skingle for spotting this little piece - and it wasn’t April the 1st!




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