From a landscape perspective, I am particularly interested in the way certain locations provide particularly musical rocks. This was the case in England, where 'in the eighteenth century rocks found on the river bed in Skiddaw in the Lake District were found to possess a particularly sonorous quality. Peter Crosthwaite, who had opened his own museum in Keswick assembled a set of musical stones in 1785, some of which were already in perfect tune, the rest he tuned himself by chipping away at the stone. In the years following a number of people began to make musical instruments using the stone, known as hornfels or spotted schist, meticulously tuning them by cutting them into different length slabs and laying them horizontally.' One of these was the Richardsons' rock harmonicon and another was commissioned by John Ruskin (visitors to the Ruskin Museum are invited to try it out for themselves).
Carl Orff used a lithophone in his opera Antigonae (1949) and Lithophones.com lists many contemporary sound artists and musicians who have made use of stone - from Sigur Rós to Stephan Micus (see clip below). There are also examples of stone instruments being made and sited in the landscape as musical sculptures, like Paul Fuchs' Garden of Sound in the Italian village of Boccheggiano. Lithophones have been constructed using agate, marble, basalt and sonorous stones “gathered from the shores of Lake Superior”. Terje Isungset, who recently played his ice instruments here in London,has also performed on blocks of Norwegian granite. It would be good to know more about performances using stone that have taken place outside, like John Luther Adams' Inuksuit which I discussed here previously (there is a Youtube clip where you can see stones being rubbed together). And it would also be nice to know more about cases where rock forms have been played directly in situ - an ancient practice, as evinced by the marks of use on stalactites found near prehistoric cave paintings in the Dordogne. However, on his website Mike Adcock points out that 'in many parts of the world there is sometimes a reticence about talking about ringing stones, possibly because of their sacred quality, and even their whereabouts remains a local secret.'