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CAVES are disorientating at the best of times, especially ones as baroque as Luray caverns, deep beneath Virginia's Shenandoah valley. But as you descend underground, past Titania's Veil (a gleaming white calcite formation), crossing Giant's Hall and skirting the mirror surface of Dream Lake, you will hear an ethereal music start to fill the dripping hush.
Soon it feels as if you are standing inside a marimba made of stone, in a setting designed by Salvador Dalí. The songs seem to come from all around, as if the cavern itself were singing. You have found the Great Stalacpipe Organ, a unique instrument that uses cave formations to make music.
Conceived and built in the 1950s by mathematician Leland Sprinkle, the organ produces tones using rubber-tipped mallets to strike stalactites as its keys are played.
It took Sprinkle three years and 2500 tries to find the right 37 formations to serve as natural chimes, ranging over five octaves. The result is the world's largest natural instrument, covering 1.4 hectares and using over 8 kilometres of wiring