There's music in them there hills
March 22, 2006 4:58 PM   Subscribe

The Great Stalacpipe Organ. This unique, one-of-a-kind instrument was invented in 1954 by Mr. Leland W. Sprinkle of Springfield, Virginia, a mathematician and electronic scientist at the Pentagon. He began his monumental 3 year project by searching the vast chambers of the caverns selecting stalactites to precisely match a musical scale. Electronic mallets were wired throughout the caverns and connected to a large four-manual console. When a key is depressed, a tone occurs as the rubber-tipped plunger strikes the stalactite tuned to concert pitch. (scroll down for mp3).
posted by Astro Zombie (23 comments total)
The MP3 link seems to be 404, but there's another one here. Just a short sample.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 5:16 PM on March 22, 2006

... Wow. Just wow. It's incredible that someone came up with this idea, and even more incredible that he was able to accomplish it.

I'm going to have to visit that place some day.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:19 PM on March 22, 2006

I remember seeing commercials for Luray Caverns all the time when I was little. And the weird fried-egg stalagm(t?)ite thinger they had in the caves there.


"Leland Sprinkle" is, like, the greatest name ever.
posted by contessa at 5:27 PM on March 22, 2006

Very very cool. I'm adding the Luray Caverns to my road trip list.

The ambient cave sounds mixed with the organ music must be incredibley eerie in person. Has anyone here ever heard this in person?
posted by maryh at 5:39 PM on March 22, 2006

Hah! I've been to Luray Caverns a couple of times.

It's very kitchy, but the organ is extremely cool.
posted by killdevil at 5:42 PM on March 22, 2006

The funny thing is, the organ is totally sacreligious in the view of cave preservationist types. They turned stalagtites that took millions of years to grow into an organ?

Luray is a tourist trap, really, but worthwhile if you're not up for real caving.
posted by killdevil at 5:46 PM on March 22, 2006

We visited the Luray Caverns as a kid but there was no organ or I would have most certainly remembered that. Caves and caving is fantastic stuff (except for that pooping in a bag stuff, that wasn't so much fun).

I'm very interested in this mp3 but the connection just keeps timing out, most aggravating.

Is there a coral cache or could a lucky downloader post it to Yousendit?
posted by fenriq at 6:03 PM on March 22, 2006

I remember that fried egg thing from Luray too! But I agree, there's better spelunking out there. Here's my favorite cave (Haven't been since I was 7 but I'd go back in a heartbeat).
posted by jrb223 at 6:05 PM on March 22, 2006

killdevil, I think all but the most hardened cave rats would admit that the Luray Caverns were pretty much done when they were opened to walking tours.

Besides, if a walkthrough gets you interested, you can get into some real caving and then you see the truly amazing stuff! I've gotta dig up my old photos from our caving trip to Wyoming/Montana.
posted by fenriq at 6:08 PM on March 22, 2006

My wife and I enjoyed the stalacpipe organ on our trip to Luray Caverns, but honestly thought the caves themselves were more interesting. It's a clever idea, to be sure, but, being man-made, kind of a departure from the "isn't nature amazing" theme of the caverns.
posted by cerebus19 at 6:42 PM on March 22, 2006

They sold flexi-disc postcard recordings of it in the gift shop back in the 70's. My sister bought one.

Damn, remember flexi-discs? Cool.
posted by davebush at 6:42 PM on March 22, 2006

I went to Luray Cavern as a kid and I saw & heard it (not played live, though, they sold recordings of it).
posted by mike3k at 7:26 PM on March 22, 2006

Cerebus19: Man is part of nature. Get over it. Making Mother Earth herself into an organ is truly awesome. If they removed the stalactites to build the organ in some building you'd have an argument.

I want more of this music!
posted by Goofyy at 10:24 PM on March 22, 2006

"Man is part of nature. Get over it."
Which particular definition of the word "nature" were you using, Goofyy? It certainly wasn't the one that cerebus19 was using when contrasting "nature" with "man-made."
["artifice is natural to humans" -Mike Snider]

I don't mind the unnatural nature of the undertaking. Concerts in caves sound like fun.
posted by Silki at 11:38 PM on March 22, 2006

The somber sound of the organ is not out of mood for the song played in the sample. Red River Valley is all about someone leaving.
posted by Cranberry at 12:19 AM on March 23, 2006

Did Mr Sprinkle get his idea over a pint at Moe's?
posted by Laotic at 1:08 AM on March 23, 2006

In other news, the EU hates organs.
posted by keijo at 4:11 AM on March 23, 2006

yeah the sound of that organ almost moves me to tears...I need to go to that cave and get sampling.
posted by 6am at 7:34 AM on March 23, 2006

I've been there several times...I so wanted to get married in the organ room, but my now-husband didn't think it was such a great idea. I don't even know if they allow that or not, but for the right $$$, who knows?
posted by candyland at 8:21 AM on March 23, 2006

I thought this was going to be a post about the "pipe organ" at Howe Caverns (in upstate NY). There's a better photo here. Sprinkle's organ was quite a surprise!
posted by Songdog at 9:33 AM on March 23, 2006

candyland writes "I so wanted to get married in the organ room"

They do weddings at Howe, too. What is it about these places?
posted by Songdog at 9:35 AM on March 23, 2006

Yes, Candyland, they do weddings!

We went last summer. We wanted a "cool" place to take a little vacation in the middle of July and indeed the caves were nice n' cool. The fried eggs are still there (and endlessly hyped for the last 20 minutes of the tour.)
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:43 PM on March 23, 2006

I've been to Luray a couple times, it's pretty damn cool. The "Fried Eggs" thing people are mentioning is just a weird formation that happens to look like sunny side up eggs.
posted by jonson at 9:19 PM on March 23, 2006

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