Wednesday, January 02, 2008

THE STALACPIPE ORGAN OF LURAY CAVERNS

Hail, Maniacs! Hope y'all had a weird holiday. I sure did - I visited the Museum of Jurassic Technology and bought an album of music made out of cave rock formations. But I'll get to all that later. First some announcements:

I won't be posting as much anymore, once a week probably. When I started this here web-log, there really weren't any other strange-music blogs. There was Basic Hip, which posted vintage vinyl (not necessarily strange), Comfort Stand, a net-label that featured some outsider-music and...that was about it. And now? Well, just check my links. I still think there's a place for M4M, though.

But to make up for the fewer amount of posts, I'll start adding pictures like everyone else. Deal?

I also won't be able to host songs indefinitely. Dodgy mp3 sites have been linking directly to me, generating thousands of hits in a brief period, which lead to my host shutting me down Christmas Eve (er, Merry Christmas to you, too, guys...), which lead to me removing all my mp3s. I'll still re-up tracks by your request, they just won't be up forever.

ANYWAY. The Great StalacPipe Organ, "The World's Largest Musical Instrument," is why we're all here today so let's get to it. Put on your lantern helmet and repel with me down into Luray Caverns, Virginia, where an engineer named Leland Sprinkle noticed that striking the cave's rock formations produced musical tones. So, in 1954, he conceived of an organ with little hammers that strike a hollow rock when the organ's keys are depressed. It's quite musical, though with a limited sonic palette. Rather then the usual pipe organ bombast, the Stalacpipe Organ is quiet, ghostly.
The reverberating splashes of dripping water in the background sounds like sporadic electronic percussion, adding to the ambient feel.

Organist Monte Maxwell recorded a cd in 2001 called "Midnight in the Caverns" full of popular, classical, gospel, and patriotic standards played on the Organ, which you can only get at the Cavern's gift shop. Or at the gift shop of Los Angeles' legendary Museum of Jurassic Technology. The Museum is a must-visit if you're in LA, a moodily-lit series of winding hallways and strange displays that more resembles a Victorian cabinet of curiosities, or even one of P.T Barnum's exhibits, then any modern history or science museum.

Monte Maxwell: "Amazing Grace"

Older recordings can be heard here (the original 365 Project), and Week 15 of Tape Findings.

8 comments:

vargtimmen said...

You need to set up your .htaccess file to block outside referrers so that people can't hotlink your MP3s from other websites. Problem solved.

vargtimmen said...

Also, your hosting should warn you if you're approaching bandwidth limits, if they're any good. If they're lousy then I suggest you check out dreamhost.com, for which you can probably find coupon codes online. Their limit is something outrageous like 200GB/mo. and they notify you if you're going to go over.

Mr Fab said...

Thanks, I suspect that they are lousy, since they gave me no warning whatsoever. Maybe time to make the switch.

I'll look into that .htaccess business, too, thanks again.

Greg Bishop said...

My girlfriend's sister (who lives in Virginia) sent me a copy of the Maxwell CD. Good to know it's available in LA! Thanks.

I tend to think that the disc is too over-produced, since it sounds like the water drop effects are a little too high. I guess I prefer the original recordings of Leland Sprinkle.

Perhaps the recording techniques of the 1950s were not good at picking up the ambient cave sounds, but I also like Sprinkle's style better.

No one would ever get permission to build such a cool thing in a cave today!

Kevin said...

Sad to hear posts will be less frequent, but I understand the need. I will condole myself with the pretty pictures...

Mr Fab said...

"No one would ever get permission to build such a cool thing in a cave today!"

Yep, i thought that too - probably wouldn't be considered very environmentally correct.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, this whole blog is fantastic. Secondly I visited the Luray caverns as a child and still remember that organ. I knew there must be a recording of it somewhere, not that I'd be able to find it. So thanks, you'll be rounding out my iPod.

Nicki Apostolow said...

Yes!!!! I highly suggest going to Luray Caverns. It's not huge cavern, (compared to Carlsbad) so getting to the organ is quick. Would be rad if they had live organists but the automated player gives it another sort of wonderment.

Another bonus of going out there is a great ride through the mountains and a hedge maze right next door.