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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Proto—Deep Listening MP3

Steve Roden makes music from fragile artifacts, in a modest manner that suggests an environmentalist’s concern with sustainability, and with an appetite that marks him as a veteran of thrift stores and online auctions. The posts on his website,, generally single out objects of the past, not just sound-emitting devices, but fragments and images related to sound and perception. Among the most recent is a 98-cent seven-inch record album featuring one Leland W. Sprinkle, Sr., on the Great Stalacpipe Organ, a resonant device if ever there were one — playing all manner of standards, each note taking on an ever-deeper quality due to the depth of the Luray Caverns, in Virginia, where the recording was made (MP3). The accumulated scratches on old vinyl such as this can often be mistaken for a gentle rain, and in this case that’s not far from the truth; according to record’s narrator, the soudn does include “a delicate percussion section”: water dropping in the cave.

[audio:|titles=”The Great Stakacpipe Organ”|artists=via Steve Roden]

Writes Roden:

    it is nice that the luray folks mentioned the natural dripping sounds in this recording on the sleeve, because it is a rare breed of instrument that can only be recorded as a field recording, not because of social reasons such as with rural or ethnographic recordings, but because the instrument itself exists in the world and is built of the world, and can only be heard within its natural soundscape.

Fans of Pauline Oliveros and Deep Listening will especially enjoy this material.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , , , / Comments: 5 ]


  1. rlinville
    [ Posted July 16, 2009, at 9:50 am ]

    I visited Luray Caverns a few years back and toured the cave. For each tour the organ plays a few bars of “oh shenandoah” as it is now automated. You can also arrange to be married in the cavern and have the organ available for that purpose. There is also a carillon which is also automated and plays at, I think, 6 o’clock each day for 30 or so minutes. I have unedited recordings of both. I really enjoyed both experiences. (I left the same comment on Steven Roden’s site)

  2. Marc Weidenbaum
    [ Posted July 16, 2009, at 10:00 am ]

    Thanks for sharing the personal experience. I’ve been to a bunch of East Coast caverns, having grown up on Long Island, but never these.

  3. Stephen
    [ Posted March 31, 2010, at 11:19 pm ]

    Mr. Sprinkle’s wife, Catherine was my fifth grade teacher. I know both of their sons. Mr. Sprinkle very graciouly presented a program regarding the Great Stalagpipe organ at my Masonic lodge when I served as the lodge’s Worshipful Master. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Sprinkle

    • Mark B.
      [ Posted August 9, 2010, at 6:22 am ]

      My family and I visited the Luray caverns while traveling from Maine to Virginia (June vacation). And of all places to find the old 45 rpm souvenir record, I found it back here in Maine. I was combing my way through several barns and antique shops in Searsport, Maine while on a camping trip when I happened on the old record in a barn with a hodge-podge of older items. $.50 for a now very unique souvenir that is in very good condition.

  4. Mark B.
    [ Posted August 9, 2010, at 6:46 am ]

    Also found this short article pertaining to the Organs construction. (

    Chip Almarode writes: Sprinkle had the idea, but he did not actual build the organ. Two men other than Mr. Sprinkle made the organ. One of the men was my dad, Loyd Almarode. The other man was Richard Beaver. My dad did the outside cabinet, Richard Beaver did the interior portion. They worked for Klan Organ in Waynesboro, Virginia. I’m not much of a story writer, but I thought you would like the rest of the untold facts about the Organ in the Luray Caverns. As probably as most stories go, the chiefs get the glory, and the support team doesn’t share in the glory, only the failures. Did Edison make all of the light bulbs or just the last one or did he? Did the Wright brothers make and assemble ever part in their plane? So that is why I thought I would give you the true facts on the Great Stalacpipe Organ. The man with the idea never put a piece of sand paper to wood that is displayed in the Luray Caverns. He may have tuned it, but he didn’t form the wood into a piece of beautiful furniture. As I previously mention, the two young men, Loyd Almarode and Richard Beaver, were the craftsmen. My dad was 28 years old when he worked for Klan Organ. Since then my dad was featured in the local newspaper as well as on a Richmond, Va. PBS TV program called Virginia Current. My dad died in 1996 at the age of 70. He was a master carpenter. My nephew, Jeremy Almarode, at the age of 28, wrote the following poem in honor of his Papaw.

    The Master Carpenter:

    An idea in his head, a small sketch on a pad, Was all he needed, it was all he had:

    He”d head towards his shop with a gleam in his eye, Not knowing if he could build it, but willing to try;

    He”d scratch down some figures, and then scratch his head, And through it all, not a word he said;

    He then began working, what a sight to behold, He treated each piece as if it were gold;

    His hands never really held the wood, but like a potter working with clay, He”d shape and mold his intricate pieces as though he were at play;

    He assembled it all with the greatest of care, each piece put carefully in place, And out the sawdust filled workshop he emerged, with a smile upon his face;

    A job well done, a masterpiece made; My grandfather, the carpenter, a master of his trade.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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