Bradford Graves

Richardson 's Original Monster Rock Band

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Richardson's Original Monster Rock Band

So you think that rock music is something new under this

sun? Well, the title of this section is from a public hand bill

printed in 1840. The Richardson family built a rock xylophone

taking thirteen years of cutting and fitting together. This

incredible instrument covered seven octaves and came from

the Skiddaw Mountain in the Lakeland region of England. The

stones are rendered musical because of a freak of nature

caused by an active volcano of Skiddaw which overflowed.

The lava, unable to flow out evenly all around because of the

other close mountains, became compressed over a very

small area.

Today, the stones are rare, particularly those with a deep tone, so that is impossible, or certainly

improbable that new xylophone could be cut.

However, another Lakeland family did make a xylophone in 1881 and toured the United States, and the

instrument is in the Museum of Orange, New Jersey.

Stones were of utmost importance in the music of China. There is a Chinese tradition that about 2,000

years ago, a complete stone chime was found in a pool and then became a model of future

instruments.

Another legend dates stone chimes back to 2300 B.C. About this time, a chant refers to a musical

stone:

" When I smite my musical stone - be it gently or strong

Then do the fiercest hearts leap for joy

and the chiefs do agree among themselves,

When ye make to resound the stone melodious,

When ye touch the lyre that is called Ch'in,

Then do the ghosts of the ancestors come to hear." 39

In Confucian music, the stone was struck to end a verse and transmit the tone to the next verse.

The materials of the instruments in a Chinese orchestra were believed to express the changes and

permutations taking place in the universe.

Sonorous Stone

Cardinal Point

Season

Phenomena

Substance

Northwest

Autumn

Winter

Heaven

Stone

Lithophones have been found elsewhere in the world; Ethiopia, Nigeria, Venezuela, and in Europe on

the island of Chios and Sardinia. In southern India there are musical stone pillars and the Ye stones of

the Central Highlands of West New Guinea. There is a West Polynesian rite to prepare the intoxicating

drink Kawa for religious purposes. Maidens perform the solemn ceremony of sitting on the ground and

pulverizing the roots of the pepper plant, piper methysticum, on flat, sonorous stones which are

insulated with small pieces of coconut and tuned to definite pitches.

Laura Bolton in her book The Music Hunter describes two lithophones found in 1950 in what is now

central Vietnam, made by the Bacsonians, a tropical race of Stone Age men that may date the

instruments as much as nine thousand years old. They may turn out to be the oldest known musical

instruments in the world.

The Rolling Stones have been with us a long time!

* * * * * * * * * *

"We prefer to look at flowers, but not through

botany, for it seems that if we look at them

alone, we see a beauty of nature's poetry, a

direct gift from the Divine, and if we look at

botany alone, we see the beauty of nature's

intellect, a direct gift of the Divine, if we

look at both together, we see nothing." 40

Charles Ives

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39. Blades, James. Percussion Instruments and their History

40. Ives, Charles. Essays Before a Sonata. Bew York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1970, p. 339

 

A Legacy Carved in Stone

 
 

Introduction

Taking the Side of Things

Omphalos and Lapis Manalis

Creation

England

The Stones of Camus

Twentieth Century Stone Sculpture

Richardson 's Original Monster Rock

Band

Robert Smithson

The Moon Gets its Rocks off on Earth

In Praise of Limestone

Essay by Laura Welikson

 

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Selected Essays