Photo courtesy of Rhoda Stewart

The Cave Music Story

How long have human beings been fascinated by the spellbinding nature of sound in caves? So very long that we can but guess: cave paintings of our Paleolithic ancestors reveal an aesthetic sensitivity tens of thousands of years old; who knows in what wonderment those early artists were awed by the echoes they heard within the deep, dark caverns?

Recent on-site acoustic tests reveal that in prehistoric caves the greatest concentrations of paintings are precisely where echoes are most reverberant; thus it is likely that sound and music were part of the underground spiritual experience of our ancestors. This comes as no surprise. Psychoacoustics and physioacoustics research confirms what people have always felt: sound has profound effects upon us.

David Auerbach, The Improvisator, awoke to the sonic possibilities of caves in 1983, when he was invited to perform mountain dulcimer for guests in a new Sonoma Valley wine cave by the late Richard Graff, California wine renaissance pioneer and former music scholar, who founded Chalone Vineyard and (with Julia Child and Robert Mondavi) the American Institute of Wine and Food.

See the bottom of this page for the (still growing) list of wineries that have hosted David Auerbach's concerts and recording sessions. People interested in the Sonoma wine country in particular should also explore John Wood's excellent Guide to Sonoma Wineries.

The underground realm of sound resonates with the musician's own inner world. He credits his receptivity to growing up in a rural setting, which sharpened his awareness of nature, something valuable to all artists and human beings. In school days, opportunities to play the less conventional band instruments instilled musical curiosity and confidence. He is grateful to the music teachers who encouraged him and respects their modern peers working today.


Photo courtesy of Rhoda Stewart


Cave Music began by chance in 1986 with the first Carols In The Caves, intended as a one-time-only event as part of David Auerbach's Napa Valley winter trilogy entitled Echoes In The Earth: music in one winery built of wood, in another of stone, and for Christmas, in a wine cave.

(Before Carols In The Caves, his first wine country series was Music And The Elements, a 6-month cycle on themes of earth, air, fire, water, darkness and light, the settings for which included a barrel cellar, a night sky, a blazing hearth, a small lake's islands, a dark salon and a candlelit lodge, all in the Napa Valley. He also hosted and produced World Fiesta, a multi-cultural festival featuring world music artists, in both Napa and Sonoma Counties.)

The response to the first Carols In The Caves has led to its continuation, at a variety of wineries in several wine regions, and to other ideas for themed performances in caves. Everything evolves over time. Similarly, the musician's observations of the effects of sound and music on people have progressively awakened new areas of interest.

---- Artistry in Service to Humanity ----


A lifetime of studying the relaxing and salutory effects of music has led David Auerbach to addressing societal issues of stress, health and happiness. Toward this end, under the auspices of a nonprofit community arts council, and with support from foundations, businesses and individuals, he offers free, multi-faceted programs to schools for nurturing the imagination of our children, and to institutions that treat illness, injury and post traumatic stress.

You are invited to help him with this service project. Information is at the link above.


Photo courtesy of Windsor Green

This Improvisator is an innovator.

He popularized wine caves as venues for concerts.

He emphasized the cave experience with silence between sounds and audience seating in multiple tunnel directions.

Before they became popular, he toured farmers markets with music. He improvised concerts under planetarium skies and beneath the high canopies of redwood groves. He created live music for unusual theatricals including his own onstage interplay with actors.

He performed live on the Golden Gate Bridge during the extraordinary 50th Anniversary "Bridge Walk" public celebration in 1987.

His first performance venture into natural caverns was at the 250-million-year-old Lake Shasta Caverns in 1989, commemorating the magnificent cave system's 25th year of public access. Other natural caverns abound, so keep your ear to the ground.

He presented Drums Of Earth: Earth-Shake In Spring in 2006, commemorating the centennial of the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake & Fire, in the sanctuary of the city's 1889 First Unitarian Universalist Church, a historic stone structure that survived the devastation.

Choices of Cave Music concerts now include:






Also: sound adventures for private groups both in and out of caves, for atmosphere, listening and participation. These include musical enhancements to sensory wine exploration, fantastical themes and creativity exercises.

Finally, the Cave Music recordings series is an ongoing and challenging undertaking, years in preparation, with expert consultation and specialized gear from around the world. Audio explorer Jeffrey Silberman graciously introduced David to ambisonics surround sound as pioneered by the late audio theorist and mathematician Michael Gerzon and others at Oxford University, providing a realistic sense of "being there" underground.

David Auerbach gratefully acknowledges the following wineries that have hosted concerts and recording sessions during his interesting and enjoyable career:

Buena Vista Winery
Byington Winery
Caldwell Vineyard
Carmenet/Moon Mountain Winery
Carneros Alambic/RMS Distillery
Chalk Hill Winery
Chappellet Winery
Charles Krug Winery
Chateau Montelena Winery
Clos Pegase Winery
Domaine Chandon
Folie a Deux Winery
Frazier Winery
Freemark Abbey Winery
Gundlach-Bundschu Winery
Hans Fahden Vineyards
Hop Kiln Winery
Landmark Winery
Livingston-Moffett Winery
Long Meadow Ranch Winery
Louis Martini Winery
Matanzas Creek Winery
Mirassou Champagne Cellars
Mirassou Vineyards
Nicholson Ranch Winery
Pine Ridge Winery
Piper-Sonoma Cellars
Quintessa Winery
Robert Mondavi Winery
Robert Pepi Winery
Rodney Strong Vineyards
Rutherford Hill Winery
Schramsberg Vineyards
Schug Carneros Estate Winery
Sebastiani Vineyards
Snoqualmie Winery
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Storybook Mountain Vineyards
Trefethen Vineyards
V. Sattui Winery
Venge Vineyards
Viansa Winery
Vine Cliff Winery
Wente Vineyards


Photo courtesy of Venge Vineyards

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