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The largest instrument in the world: an incredible organ that plays thanks to stalactites
Among the strangest and most peculiar instruments in the world, the primacy probably belongs to the Grand Stalacpipe Organ.

It is an extraordinary instrument, absolutely unique and unrepeatable, which is found in the United States, inside the Luray Caves in Virginia.

The caves, among the most spectacular in the world, were discovered in 1878, and it was soon realized that the stalactites, if struck, emit musical tones. One of the first testimonies in this regard comes from the account of a guided tour conducted in 1880 by Andrew Campbell (a tinsmith who was among the discoverers of this wonder of nature) for a group of scholars from the Smithsonian Institution. Campbell in fact surprised the delegates by playing a melody on a formation of stalactites, which later became known as the 'organ'.  

The tourist visits organized since the beginning of the last century (in 1906 there were already 18,000 visitors) included short musical performances, in which popular melodies, hymns and other well-known songs were played by playing the stalactites.

Leland W. Sprinkle (1908 - 1990), a mathematician and electronic engineer from the Pentagon, also took part in one of these tours, visiting the caves in 1954 to celebrate the birthday of his son Robert.

The musical demonstration inspired him to build an instrument that would enhance the sonic potential of the limestone formations in the cave. Sprinkle, an expert in music, therefore designed a sort of gigantic organ that instead of the usual metal pipes used stalactites for the production of sounds. He started his monumental project in 1956, with technical support from Waynesboro's Klann Organ Supply, and it took more than three years to complete. He began by exploring the vast chambers of the caves, selecting 37 stalactites of varying length and thickness, to identify those that resonated with the frequencies corresponding to a musical scale.

The sound is produced by rubberized hammers which, electronically operated by the organ keyboards, gently strike the stalactites, determining a perfect union between nature and the hand of man.

The stalactites, which are not damaged in any way, emit sounds similar to muffled bells. The sounds reverberate in the echoes of the cave and merge with the dripping water and the background noise produced by the flow of visitors, creating a very special and almost unreal sound experience.


When the keyboard of the organ is operated, it is as if the cave itself is playing, it is the entire underground landscape that becomes an immense musical instrument that extends for 14,000 square meters!

A truly unmissable experience - to get an idea of the sound of this very special lithophone (from the Greek líthos, 'Stone')

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