Making music with rocks

In Bucks County, an unconventional instrument is just outside.

Imagine walking down a narrow dirt trail through the dark woods of Bucks County. You hear the percussive echo of what sounds like metal hitting metal, followed by sounds of bells ringing in the distance.

Suddenly, you see numerous boulders in an open field. Throughout the field, people are banging large, reddish boulders with hammers.

No, you have not accidentally stumbled upon a mystical cult gathering. You’ve just arrived at Ringing Rocks Park.

“When I first heard about this place, I definitely did not think it was real,” Kenny Snyder said shortly before he leaned down to strike a boulder he was standing on with a hammer.

He swung it hard on the rock, causing a loud ringing to reverberate throughout the park.

Ringing Rocks Park is nearly two hours away from where the junior secondary education major grew up.
“I remember coming here on school field trips. It was always fun to try and make music with the boulders, although it never sounded too good,” Snyder said.

At Ringing Rocks Park in Upper Black Eddy, Pa., people can bang on rocks to make music. Geologist Richard Faas discovered the vibration from one rock to another creates the phenomenal sound (Cory Masonis/TTN).

Judging by the park’s visitors, it’s more fun to be noisy than melodic. People whaled away on the boulders, swinging their hammers down as hard as they could.

Located in the woods of Upper Black Eddy, Pa., Ringing Rocks Park is part of the Bucks County Park System. The park is located an hour and a half away from Philadelphia.

“This place looks crazy,” junior BTMM major Christopher Kology said as he stood atop a large boulder near the center of the field.

The overcast sky made leafless trees surrounding the field look menacing, as if they were reaching out to take him.

The weather added a grim atmosphere to the park that day. If druids in black robes marched past, they wouldn’t have looked out of place.

“I’m glad I came here today, though,” Kology said. “This is a really weird place and a welcome departure from city life.”

So what’s the deal with the ringing rocks? How did they get there? What causes the rocks to create musical tones?

It’s a combination of factors that are less mystical than you might think.

Geologist Richard Faas discovered that when individual rocks are struck, the force causes ringing at frequencies lower than the human ear can register. The vibration from one rock bounces off the others in the park, causing them to vibrate as well. The vibrations off the rocks as a whole create the ringing noise that can be heard after striking one of the boulders with a hammer.

Tom McCabe, 55, a resident of Bucks County, has another theory.

“The void under the rocks makes the sound more distinct,” he said, referring to how the boulders are layered several feet down, with deep crevices in between many spots.

Ringing Rocks Park is home to more than a seemingly mysterious boulder field that contains musical rocks. There are campgrounds and several hiking trails, one of which leads to the largest waterfall in Bucks County.

Cory Masonis can be reached at