Deep down in the beautiful caves of Luray, Virginia, lies the largest musical instrument in the world: The Great Stalacpipe Organ.
So begins the video to an instrumental track performed by Paul Malmström called In The Cave. It features on an album called ‘Queen of The Wave’ by the very quirky Scandinavian band Pepe Deluxé. It is the first composition specifically written for this unique musical instrument, although many folk and classical tunes have been played on it, and recorded, over the years. To demonstrate how quirky Pepe Deluxe are – ‘Queen of The Wave’ is a concept album based on a book about Atlantis published in 1905 called A Dweller on Two Planets (or The Dividing of the Way). It was supposedly transposed by automatic writing by a spirit called ‘Phylos the Tibetan’ to it’s ‘author’ Frederick S. Oliver over a three-year period in the late 1880’s then published after the author’s death.
But all that is by the by – my discovery of Pepe Deluxe and A Dweller on Two Planets came about after, and due to, my discovery of The Great Stalacpipe Organ while browsing the internet a few weeks ago.
The caves were discovered in 1878 and are situated near the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, USA. Soon after their discovery the acoustic quality of some of the Stalactites was realised and often demonstrated during tours of the cave. There is even a rock feature that became known as the Organ because of its resemblance to organ pipes.
The construction of the instrument pictured above was begun in the late 1950’s and consists of a four octave organ console made by the Klann Organ Supply Company of Waynesboro, Virginia. The keys of the instrument are connected by about five miles of wiring to tuned stalactites (tuned by careful sanding) which stretch over 3 1/2 acres of the cave. Pressing the keys trigger rubber hammers which strike the stalactites and produce a sound (via amplification) which has a quite beautiful and eerie quality.
This one-of-a-kind instrument was conceived by Mr. Leland W. Sprinkle of Springfield, Virginia, a mathematician and electronics scientist at the Pentagon. It took 36 years of frustrating research, design and experimentation to bring his dream to its present state of perfection. Three years alone were spent searching the vast chambers of the caverns to select and carefully sand stalactites to precisely match the musical scale. Only two stalactites were found to be in tune naturally. (from louraycaverns.com)