A Stone Tower That Vibrates with Sound

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Listener Jim Milstein of Pagosa Springs, Colo., built a stone tower. When he strums the steel guard rails inside, the parts of the cylindrical structure vibrate, making the whole thing a musical instrument.


Southern Colorado is home to ruins left by ancient civilizations, and today's SoundClip comes from a relative newcomer to that region. He is a listener who constructed his home in an ancient style.

(Soundbite of metal vibrating)

Mr. JIM MILLSTEIN: I'm Jim Millstein and I live in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

And I built an unusual house. And one of the unusual things about it is that it incorporates a faux Anasazi tower. It's cylindrical. In effect, we have almost a very, very large organ pipe.

And I wasn't really thinking about it as a musical instrument or a sound-producing structure when I built it. But once it was done, I was messing around with the safety railings and discovered that they make a very dramatic sound.

They're a half-inch steel rod and they're about four inches apart. They're about four feet long. So they're all the same thickness, they're all the same length. And so they pretty much all want to vibrate the same way.

When you strum on one or more of the safety railings, they start all the other safety railings in the tower to resonating, and you have this big column of air all being driven by a bunch of steel safety railings, and makes a pretty interesting sound.

As the sound decays, it gets even more interesting. It gets quieter, but it gets much deeper because you get all these very deep bass frequencies beating against each other.

(Soundbite of metal vibrating)

SIEGEL: Vibrations of a metal safety railing in a cylindrical tower in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, played by the owner and builder, Jim Millstein.

Whether you live in a tower, a trailer, a trunk or a train, if there is an element of acoustic novelty worthy of sharing with all listeners, contact us by going to NPR.org and searching for SoundClips.

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