Stone Stories: Sounds of Stones

The stone-violin by Holland Graniet at the Stone+tech 2007.Update: (February 2010) Loudspeakers in a Marble Box

Update: (December 2009) „Quarry Bells“

Update: (May 2009) Organ-pipes of stone by Iván Larrea (in Spanish).

Update: (April 2009) Vroemen produces loudspeakers in stone.

Update: (March 2009) A piano in Thin Stone Technology, called the „Hard Rock Piano“, is produced by the Vienna based company Brodmann.

(January 2009) The Dutch company Holland Graniet presented a prototype of a natural stone violin at the Stone+tec fair in 2007: its weight necessitated the use of a stand to support it while playing. But the history of stone in music did not start in the 21st century, although the British Pop Group played an important role.

The Talempong Batu discovered in Sumatra must be ancient. Researchers found out that it dates back to the age of the megaliths some 1000 years B.C.

The Ringing Rocks Park, USA, (sound example) are all natural and have neither been shaped nor tuned by man as is the case of the Stalacpipe Organ in the Shenandoah National Park, USA (sound example).

The well-known Singing Sands, known from many deserts, (1, 2, 3) play without assistance from human hand.

The Chinese Bianqing-Chimes of jade or stone and similar Korean counterparts Pyeongyeong are made and played by man.

Lithophones have been in use for ages in Asian cultures; in Vietnam they are called Dan Da. They are comparable to the metallic xylophone or the wooden marimbaphone but their bars are made of stone (1, 2, 3). A lithophone made of hornfels rock (1, 2) originates from Cumbria in England.

Stonaphones are made of slate, as are Llechiphones.

The Swiss stone-salesman Rudolf Fritsche developed some instruments made of stone. One of them is the so called Gramorimba. On his webpage, audio streams can be experienced (1, 2, 3).

The German Klaus Feßmann is an artist who performs music shows with various stone instruments. The Swiss Arthur Schneiter composed pieces for sound stones (Klangsteine).

Sometimes stone merely gives music the right shape. This is the case in the loudspeakers of the Austrian company Gersthofer, which are installed in boxes of polished marble. The Italian Dansk Marble has similar products. Some say that this construction enhances the acoustic quality, others find it only decorative.

Big lithophones are an attraction for children in some parks all over the world. A hiking trail in Switzerland leads to rocks that make sounds.

No sounds can be produced by sculptures of musical instruments like this drum by a Belgian artist or this design for a harbour pub in Ireland.

The latest ideas for cemeteries are gravestones with integrated loudspeakers, which can tell of the deceased.

A complete overview of our subject was given by Ulrike Stottrop from the Ruhrlandmuseum in the German city of Essen in a lecture. This museum has a permanent exhibition for stones and sounds.

P.S.: We found another interesting aspect to our subject in the book „Stein. Zerfall und Konservierung“ (hrsg. von Siegfried Siegesmund, Michael Auras, Rolf Snethlage, Edition Leipzig, 2005, S. 160-164). It is said there that quarry workers use to make a sound-check of the fresh marble blocks. They beat on them to extract information about cracks within the stone acoustically. The autors say that ancient marble also has a typical sound. It is assumed that stone changes its microstructure with age.


Lithopohone de P. Laye

Sculpture „Augmented Lithophone“ (1, 2)

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