When I first became interested in stone I took part time work in a quarry, my job was delving flagstones. This meant being at the rock face, prising slabs of stone from the surface, using the natural bed of the stone to rive the pieces free. Some of the slabs were huge and the work was heavy going - I was on piece-rate and didn't fare very well - not so much due to the hard labour, but more because I spent time looking in stunned amazement each time I broke a flag away. There before me was the surface of clean, fresh, raw stone which was seeing the light of day for the first time in millions of years! But more, there is a sound, a wet suction cracking sound, which signals the parting of the stone from its place, which for me is sublime. Music.
Stone continues to make sounds which please. All the time I am working I am instinctively listening to the noise the hammer and chisel are making when connecting with the stone. Sweet, clean tones, unless I'm stressing the stone too much, and then I hear it, and lighten my blows. Often I test the soundness of a block of stone by striking it smartly with my hammer, it reveals its denseness, a dullness suggests I should be wary.
Different stones play different music. When I was working Portland Stone for the first time I was thrilled by the sonorous ringing as I carved. It was my White Bird - and it sang back to me throughout its making.
In fact Portland Stone is known for its 'ringing' and when many quarries were being worked in the area, it was full of sound, like bells pealing as the quarrymen hammered.
The Portland Sculpture Quarry Trust are working on a project with Evelyn Glennie, the percussionist, for the 2012 Oympics on a composition to be played on a lithophone made from pieces of Portland stone, cut to make different sounds.
I'm hoping I've connected to this video from them successfully - if not, sorry - do go and listen on their site.