Teoría Incertidumbre #12

The Lithophone and The Vibration Principle of The Kybalion


Lithophone demonstration by Mårten Bondestam.
The Richardson Musical Stones - improvisation Lithophone Looped#1.
L'Ocelle Mare live presentation at El Pumarejo of Vallcarca 30-11-2016


The lithophone is a rudimentary instrument built of stones, as the word itself says (lito= stone, phono= sound), it is considered an instrument that is the ancestor of the bell. It is considered an instrument that has passed through different times and cultures, according to some experts its use has been as extreme as from children's games to secret rituals. In the ancient Chinese culture of the Shang dynasty, the first instruments made of stone were described. In Europe, there is no record of a similar instrument until the early 20th century, when Don Antonio Roca y Várez devised and built the first modern lithophone.



The people of Chokwe use stone bells called sango.

In Santa Rosa de Tastil, Argentina, there is a special quartz from which lithophones have been made locally. " Tastil" apparently means "sounding rock". An example of the lithophones can be found in the local museum.

In the early 19th century, Franz Weber built an alabaster instrument which he called Lithokymbalon.

The Gobustan (Kobustan / Qobustan) caves contain ancient cave drawings that include depictions of dances. There is also a rock that emits a deep resonant sound when struck, known as gaval-dashy (apparently meaning 'tambourine stone') and it is popularly believed that dancing took place to the accompaniment of the sound of the stone.

The people of northern Potosi in Bolivia apparently used resonant stones whose sound was apparently sustained by them as manifestations of the presence of the demon, Supay, trapped inside them.

The people of Sea Dayak in Borneo have used stone bells which they refer to as kromo.

Small stones are used in the rattle known as Yondo, which comprises a pipe, usually made of metal.

There are many examples of stone bell bars suspended in China. The original examples found in archaeological finds are made of marble, although later ones tend to be made mainly of jade. They were generally used for ceremonial purposes. Some of these date back thousands of years. The bian ch'ing or bian'qing generally consists of a set of sixteen or thirty-two L-shaped slabs, which are suspended in a large frame and struck on their long side with wooden mallets or padded sticks. Image below courtesy of Dr. Kia C.Ng, University of Leeds

The Murui Muinane people of the La Chorrera region have long traded in locally extracted granite. They appropriated a large slab to use as a gong that they traditionally used to communicate across distances and rituals.

Apparently, the National Museum has a lithophone, although details are difficult to find.


In the 18th century, the rocks found in 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, collected a collection of musical stones in 1785, some of which were already in perfect tune, the rest tuned in when the stone was cut. They can now be seen in the Keswick Museum & Art Gallery, where the picture below was taken. In the years that followed, several people began making musical instruments using the stone, known as hornfels, by meticulously tuning them by cutting them into slabs of different lengths and placing them horizontally. The best known, and largest, was built by Joseph Richardson, who called it the Rock Harmonicon, and later made a career out of it by touring Britain and abroad giving recitals. The instrument can now be seen and played in the Keswick Museum. Also widely known, emanating from the same area but finding success by moving to the United States, was the Till Family Rock Band, formed by Daniel Till and his two sons, James and William. Part of their instrument can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum. New York. Other examples of Skiddaw lithophones can be found, including one commissioned by John Ruskin, which is now in the Ruskin Museum in Coniston. A new telephone is currently under construction and will be housed in Ruskin's old house, Brantwood, on the edge of Lake Coniston. In 19th century Yorkshire, a man called Neddy Dick from Keld, at the top of Swaledale, was known for his extraordinary collection of musical instruments which included a collection of rocks he played by tapping on various implements. He never achieved the wider success enjoyed by the Richardsons and the Till family: a tour of the country was planned, but unfortunately he died a few days before his debut.

The use of stone bells, known as a pin, has been adapted for Christian use in the Coptic church and can be heard, for example, in one of the monasteries on an island in the middle of Lake Tana. They hang from a rope and are apparently used functionally, such as a dinner gong.

In the Karelian region on the border of Finland and Russia, rock gongs have been found near petroglyphs or stone carvings. This suggests that they were used ceremonially, probably by Saami people.

There are several examples of sounding stones in Brittany. In Menec, near Carnac, there are some standing stones known as pierres creuseso 'hollow stones' because of their ring. It is quite possible that the sound of the stones was incorporated into the rituals intended for the standing stones. At Le Guildo, on the edge of the Arguenon estuary, there are some rocks that are well known locally for their propensity to sound when struck. A folklore has built up around them. At the shrine of St Gildas Cave, near Pontivy, where, until his death in 540 AD, the Welsh missionary hermit who gave him his name used a rock gong to summon his small congregation to mass. The gong may have been used previously in pagan ceremonies. It can still be seen and, a couple of miles away, in the church at Bieuzy, there is another rock gong.

In the Dordogne there is a series of caves containing prehistoric paintings very close to the stalactites that sound when hit and which show evidence of considerable use.

In the 19th century, the amateur scientist Honoré Baudre spent more than thirty years searching for pieces of flint suitable for what he called his geological piano. He was invited to play in several concerts and exhibitions in France and elsewhere in Europe, including several concerts in Great Britain. A translation of a contemporary French article about him appears elsewhere on the site under Articles.

The composer Carl Orff (1895 (1895-07-10) - 1982 wrote for the lithophone and his pupil Klaus Becker-Ehmck had one built for him. The instrument, which he referred to as the Steinspiel, was used in particular in his opera Antigonae.

Several examples of resonant rocks have been documented. These seem to have been used for communication, for public announcements and as warning signs of impending danger.

Before the introduction of the guitar and ukulele into Hawaiian music in the early 1880s, most of the instruments used to accompany the traditional hula were percussion instruments. These included pairs of stone castanets consisting of round and flat pieces of basalt lava, played by hula dancers. Two of these pairs are housed in the U.S. National Museum of Music in Vermillion, South Dakota.

Icelandic composer Elias Davidsson has used and written about lithophones.

The Sigur Rós band has also used lithophones and it is suggested that their modern use follows an ancient tradition of lithophones found in the country. They are made of basaltic isotropic stones that, as a result of climate changes, have been divided into thin sheets or slabs.

There are ancient examples in Orissa, South India, of rocks and boulders that emit sonorous sounds when struck and which, because of their proximity to rock carving sites, suggest that they were used musically. They are believed to date back to the Neolithic, or late Stone Age (several thousand years before Christ). Other sites in South India also have evidence of early use of resonant rocks. Some, cited by Catherine Fagg in Rock Music, are found at Gulbarga, although it is not clear to what extent they were used in any significant way. There is more evidence in the work of Nicole Boivin, who has investigated sites in Sangana-Kupgal, near the town of Bellary in Karnataka. Here there are resonant rocks with clear evidence of cup marks to suggest rhythmic play and they are located next to petroglyphs, incised drawings in the rock.

From more recent times, but still ancient, there are many temples in India built with stone pillars that resonate with different tones, turning the whole building into a musical instrument. Examples can be found in Hampi (Karnataka), Tadpatri and Lepakshi (Andhra), Madurai, Vaishnavite shrine in Tirunalveli (or Tirunelvelei), Alagar Koil, Tenkasi, Curtalam, Alwar, Tirunagari and Suchindram in Tamil Nadu.

Suspended bell bars can sometimes be found in Buddhist temples and are very similar to those in China. It is more common for these to be metallic, but the earliest examples were of stone. Stone is also used in wind chimes.

It is believed that the gongs or bonangs in Java were originally made of stone: examples have been discovered in several sites in East and Central Java.

Rock gongs are found in several places: in central Kenya near Embu, on the island of Mfangano in Lake Victoria, in the Kilifi district near the coast and elsewhere. Sometimes they have had a ritual, a sacred meaning, in other places children use them in a more playful way.

Like Japan, Korea adopted the Chinese form of stone bell bars for ceremonial use. In Korea, these are known as pyen kyang and comprise sixteen L-shaped slabs suspended within a frame.

There are several examples of stones that are used as a simple percussion material, without being characterized by any particular quality of tone. The British Library's National Sound Archive has recordings of songs of Liberian works accompanied by stones.

Apparently, the Dogon people of Mali have used lithos. In 1966, filmmakers Jean Rouch and Gilbert Rouget made a film Batterie Dogon. Éléments pour un étude de rythmes about their use. There are several examples of resonant rocks, some of which may have cultural importance.

Batu Gong, near Tambunan in Malaysia, is apparently known for its musical rocks. They are large pieces of stone that lie on the ground and each emits a range of different tones and pitches depending on where it is struck. Groups of local people gather to play tunes on them (possibly for the benefit of passing tourists). What their past cultural importance might have been is not clear.

In Oaxaca, in caves associated with the Mixtec people, there is a series of stalactites, stalagmites and columns that appear to have been used for musical purposes. These caves had particular cultural significance and were used for various rituals. In one particular cave, Las Ruinas, there are speleothems with indentations and markings that suggest they were percusively beaten.

In Pohnpei, in the Caroline Islands, there is a tradition of grinding kawa root, an intoxicant widely used throughout the region, using stones in a large resonant basalt dish. The preparation becomes a musical performance as the resulting rhythms take over the work in question.

There is a rarely heard Mongolian lithophone now known as the shuluun tsargel , whose stones are suspended by a cord in a frame. The CD Musique et Chants de Tradition Populaire Mongolie Grem G7511 contains a track played on an instrument composed of fourteen stones by a musician from Bayan Khongor in southern Mongolia.

Stones have been used in a variety of ways in Maori music. Unusually, stone (along with bone and wood) has been used to make flutes that mimic the sound of birds. In particular, the stone koauau is used to replicate the bell-shaped notes of the bird known as the kokako. Stone has also been used to make bullroarers in which "the spirit of the player travels down the cord to create sound, which then travels on the wind to carry the player's words and dreams to the listeners of the world".

Examples have been found of resonant rocks with multiple cup marks suggesting that they have been struck repeatedly, most likely in a rhythmic and musical manner, although the exact nature of their use no longer seems to be known.

The Yoruba people have a history of lithophone use, but the best documented examples of musical stones in Nigeria are the multiple rock gongs that Bernard Fagg wrote about in the 1950s and later documented in his widow Catherine' s book 'Rock Music' (1997). The most notable are found at Birnin Kudu in Kano State. These rock gongs have been used for communication, ritual and recreational use. They may also have been used for ensemble musical performances.

The painted cave of Escoural in Evora is similar to those in the Dordogne in France, as it combines cave paintings with stalactites that show signs of having been hit repeatedly. This suggests evidence of rituals dating back to Palaeolithic times.

Alla Ablova of the Petrozavodsk Conservatory in Russia is an authority on ancient lithophones discovered in various parts of the world. She has written in particular about some that appear in various legends and folk songs of the Karelian region of Russia and in Saami folk tales.

There are several ringing stones in Scotland, at least some of which had ritual significance in ancient times. One of these, 'Arnhill', also known as 'Ringing Stane' and 'Haddock Stone ' located near Huntly in Aberdeenshire, is part of a stone circle. Others include Johnston Stone, also in Aberdeenshire, and The Ringing Stone or Clach o'Choire on the island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides.

Catherine Fagg, in her book Rock Music, mentions several stones in the Britstown district of central South Africa, but could not establish their level of importance within the community. In many parts of the world, there is sometimes a reluctance to talk about the sound of the stones, possibly because of their sacred quality, and even their whereabouts remain a local secret.

Rock gongs are found on the west bank of the Nile and were also documented by Bernard Fagg. One appeared in the first BBC documentary series Lost Kingdoms of Africa and it was suggested that many other gongs, whose use dates back to 5000 BC, have been discovered there in the Nubian desert.

In West Sumatra there are some ancient musical rocks known as talempong batu which can be seen in Nagari Talang Anau. From the photographs they look a little bit like the ones found in Vietnam. It seems likely that they were the predecessors of the metal gongs known as talempong found in the same region. It is not known how old they are or what social function they may have originally had, although they would surely have had a ceremonial use. Apparently, the Talempong Batu are still considered locally to possess spiritual powers, and it is said that in the event of an impending disaster, the stones will emit strange and bizarre noises.

On the island of Gotland there is a granite rock that sounds with cup marks, which indicates a probable repeated reproduction. It is reputed to have been used in ancient times as a sacrificial stone and a pagan altar.

The well-documented rock gong shown below is located at Moru Koppies in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. Unlike some rock gongs that are part of a larger rock formation, this one is freestanding. The crown marks, resulting from years of being struck, are clearly visible and cover each side. It is not known for certain how it was used, although it may have played a role in Masai culture. There are many other examples of resonant rocks found in Tanzania, some of which may have been used in ancestral and rain ceremonies.

The Kabiyé people, from a region in northern Togo, a small West African state between Benin and Ghana, play musical stones for ceremonial and ritual purposes. The reproduction of music is strictly linked to the agricultural seasons and these musical stones can only be played for a short period, after the harvest, between November and January. The stones, known as the "pichanchalassi", are placed on the ground, usually, it seems, in a set of five, each with a different tone, and hit with another smaller stone. On the CD Togo de Ocora you can hear several tracks with the reproduction of the pichanchalassi.

Along with Nigeria and Sudan, Uganda can boast a number of natural rock gongs. These have been documented in Catherine Fagg's book Rock Music.
It seems that they have sometimes been used ritually and their whereabouts are sometimes a local secret. More profanely, children often use them as a play area. In 2007, composer Nigel Osborne took on a commission in collaboration with London Sinfonietta based on the sounds of rock gongs on the island of Lolui Island in Lake Victoria.


The Great Stalacpipe Organ, Luray Caves, Shenandoah National Park. The instrument is the creation of Pentagon mathematician and scientist Leland W. Sprinkle and was built in 1954. When playing the keyboard, rubber-tipped mallets are fired, striking the stalactites in the surrounding caverns, carefully chosen for their precise pitch. The organ claims to be the largest musical instrument in the world.

The quarry at Pipestone, Minnesota, mentioned by Longfellow in 'The Song of Hiawatha', is the source of a soft clay stone carved by the Sioux into ceremonial pipes. They also created musical instruments from pipestone. This rare example of a non-percussive lithophone is in the National Museum of Music in Vermillion, South Dakota.

Resonant rocks are a well-known feature of the landscape near Easton. It's not known to what extent they had any ancient ritual significance. Their main cultural role comes from tourism.

Stone castanets known as qayraq/kayrak or 'black stones' are played here, two in each hand, to accompany the dance.

In the early 20th century, several archaeological excavations in South America unearthed what were thought to be examples of stone drumming. A burial cave at Niquivao in Trujillo, Venezuela, contained rectangular serpentine plates with incisions that suggested they might have been suspended for use as a type of bell or gong.

Many groups of stones of different tone have been found in Vietnam, indicating that they were being used musically thousands of years ago. The first of these was discovered by French archaeologist Georges Condominas in 1949. Some of the minorities in Vietnam, such as the M'nong, most of whom live in the central highlands, have continued to use these stones. Although not central to traditional Vietnamese music as it is presented today, their place is recognized and some musicians have built their own modern versions and continue to play them. The Vietnamese name is dan da. The old set of stones seen in the photo below was seen in a music store in Hanoi. An article by Mike Adcock about a trip to Vietnam in search of musical stones appears in the Articles section of this site.

The Pembrokeshire town of Maenclochog in Dyfed is located south of the Preseli Hills. Its name is Welsh for stone, referring to two large stones that adorned the landscape. That was until the end of the 18th century when they were dismantled to build roads in defiance of the wishes of the local people. It seems that there are still other stones ringing in the region, some with crown marks.

Several rock gongs and resonant stones have been documented in Zimbabwe. As in other parts of Africa, some of these appear to have been used as long-distance media. Others have a sacred meaning and are believed to speak the voices of the ancestors. Near Muzondo, in the region of Musombo and Chiramba, musical performances have been documented together, using mujejeje, the Shona word for musical stones.

The Kybalion Vibration Principle:
"Nothing is motionless; everything moves; everything vibrates."

This principle contains the truth that everything is in motion, that nothing stays still, both of which are confirmed by modern science, and each new discovery verifies and proves it. And yet this hermetic principle was enunciated hundreds of years ago by the Masters of ancient Egypt. This principle explains the differences between the various manifestations of matter, of force, of mind, and even of the same spirit, which are but the result of the various vibratory states. From the ALL, which is pure spirit, to the grossest form of matter, everything is in vibration: the higher it is, the higher its position on the scale. The vibration of the spirit is of infinite intensity; so much so that it can practically be considered as if it were at rest, in the same way that a wheel that turns very quickly seems to be without movement. And at the other end of the scale there are forms of very dense matter, whose vibration is so weak that it also seems to be at rest. Between the two poles there are millions upon millions of degrees of vibratory intensity. From the corpuscle and the electron, from the atom and the molecule to the star and the Universes, everything is in vibration. And this is equally true in regard to the states or planes of energy or force (which is nothing more than a certain vibratory state), and to the mental and spiritual planes. A perfect understanding of this principle enables the hermetic student to control his own mental vibrations as well as those of others. The Masters also employ this principle to conquer natural phenomena. "He who understands the vibratory principle has reached the scepter of power," said one of the oldest writers.

Sources: http://www.lithophones.com/ http://www.wikipedia.com