Music After Death


Two themes of this blog, caves and lyres, come together in the figure of Orpheus, who charms his way into the Underworld by virtue of his virtuoso harping. Deep underground, Queen Persephone weeps to hear his music, which after all must sound more beautiful there than on the surface, given the cavernous, mineral acoustics. A modern echo of this moment in mythopoeic time is provided by the Great Stalacpipe Organ, an instrument in Luray Caverns, Virginia, that is really more percussion-based, given that each key, when depressed, causes a hammer to strike a stalactite, producing the appropriate note. The resulting music is reminiscent of a giant marimba, or vibraphone, or some of the extravagant musical instruments created by artist Tim Hawkinson. On my own trip to the Underworld, presumably unable to bring along any kithara or guitar, I will have to hope that a grand stalacpipe organ is already there, waiting for new arrivals to sit down and perform, and perhaps in that way I could charm the current Queen of Hell, whoever she may be, into sending me back above, or letting me stay on as her beloved.

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