Rock music from the Cumbrian Hills

Although most rocks simply give a dull thud when struck, some rocks ‘ring’. Scientists at the University of Leeds, in collaboration with the Brantwood Trust, schools and quarry companies, have created a 21st century version of Ruskin’s slate lithophone, using rocks found across Cumbria. The instrument is on permanent display in the Linton Room at Brantwood and is available for visitors to play.

The team used four different types of ‘ringing rocks’ to create a 49-key, four octave lithophone that can be played by visitors to Brantwood. The rocks have been selected by geologists led by Professor Bruce Yardley of the University of Leeds to illustrate the rich geological heritage of the Lake District. The project also features a smaller one-octave iRock instrument which uses multimedia music technology to create interactive explanations of the geological properties of the rocks as they are played.

International percussionist, Dame Evelyn Glennie, (video courtesy of University of Leeds & R. Martin Seddon) has been closely involved in the project, and played the instrument in front of an audience of 600 people at its launch at Brantwood in August 2010:

“This project links closely to many new and conceptual ideas. It seeks to unlock the potential of the fabric of our landscape to teach us not only about the past but also the future. It is right and proper that the natural curiosity of children is embraced and they will be able to embed their findings of both music and geology into the history books of tomorrow.

“My personal hope is that many others will follow in our footsteps and add to this initial development of an interesting instrument thus unlocking the mysteries of these ancient rocks and landscape”.

The project was funded by Natural England, through DEFRA’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund.


Prisoners from Haverigg Prison at Millom in Cumbria helped with the construction of the frames for the rock instruments. Haverigg Prison has an established relationship with the Ruskin Foundation through a number of collaborative projects.


The musical stones are available to be played by visitors of all ages in the Linton Room and related interpretation panels are also on display. The Linton Room is part of the Linton building, a stone cottage adjacent to the main house.  Admission is included in the house or garden ticket.

Brantwood is an independent registered charity - The Brantwood Trust Coniston Cumbria LA21 8AD Telephone: 015394 41396 Fax: 015394 41263