Lithophones - Instruments Made of Fossils, Floor Tiles, and More

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Musician, artist, and "edutainer" Tom Kaufmann makes unique instruments called lithophones, which are similar to xylophones, but created from various stones. Here's how Kaufmann describes them:

Another happy coincidence led me to my current fascination with constructing lithophones. I was tossing around some scrap pieces of granite countertop that I’d gotten for one of my Upright Furniture projects, and as one of the chunks landed, it rang as clear as a bell.

I’d been looking for stone suitable for building lithophones for a while, but never suspected I would find a source of such readily available and inexpensive material.

Litho is Greek for stone, and phone is sound, so a lithophone is a musical instrument made from stone. They are one of the most ancient instruments, and in China the sound of stone is as elemental as metal or wood. In Viet Nam a stone instrument called a “dan da” was found that is believed to be over 9,000 years old. Western civilization didn’t use stone for music until the 1840’s. There are links to some great sources of information about lithophones at the bottom of this page.

Here's Kaufmann playing the "Flintstones" theme on a lithophone made from Michigan's State Stone: Petoskey Stone (fossilized coral that lived 350 million years ago). By the way, did you know Michigan had a State Stone? Enjoy:

Floor Tiles & Wrenches

Not all lithophones are made of such exotic materials. This video shows a series of lithophones made from floor tiles, then a toolbox glockenspiel (made from wrenches and bolts, complete with some mild tuning problems):

Limestone

Here's Kaufmann playing his "park bench lithophone," made from scrap limestone. Yes, he plays the "Flintstones" theme again:

Granite

This lithophone is made of granite. From Kaufmann's website:

Here’s a video of my newest lithophone, built for the Children’s Garden at the Charlevoix Public Library, in Charlevoix, Michigan. This one octave diatonic instrument, made of granite and mounted on a powder coated steel base with stainless steel bolts, is tuned to the key of C, A=440

For more on Kaufmann and his work, check out Tinkertunes Music Studios. You can find some more lithophone videoes on the Instruments page.

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December 29, 2011 - 6:16am
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