Tour guides delight in standing underneath the dome and flicking a piece of paper, which creates a short, sharp “clack, clack, clack, . . .”
This Mosque was completed in 1629, in the last year of the reign of Shah Abbas. Sound bounces back and forth between the floor and ceiling, with the vast dome focusing the sound, forcing it to keep moving back and forth in a regimented fashion. Without a dome, the echo from the ceiling would be lost among all the other sound reflections in the mosque. The iconic blue-tiled mosaic tiles help to provide strong reflections, which is why so many repeats of the echo are heard.
Looking like a cluster of igloos, this sound sculpture is ideal for traditional Icelandic singing.
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“It is great fun visiting this work of art, trying to sing in all the domes teaches one a lot about acoustics. This area is quiet and tranquil and one doesn’t have to feel embarrassed about raising one’s voice to sing out loud”
Constructed from smooth thick concrete, each of these reverberant chambers has been tuned to a different frequency corresponding to a tone in traditional Icelandic five-part harmony. It’s by German artist Lukas Kühne and is called Tvísöngur or The Duet. You can hear the resonances either by singing, or through the wind whistling through the openings.
Here is a short snippet of singing without (anechoic) and then with the sculpture.
A beautiful reverb surrounded by vivid and explicit frescos.
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This doesn’t appear very high on lists of tourist attractions in Oslo, but it deserves to be much better known. It was built in 1926 by the artist Emanuel Vigeland as a gallery. Luckily, for sound tourists the windows were later filled in when it was turned into the artist’s mausoleum. Every surface in the room is now concrete or stone, and this means the sound bounces and rings around the room for an extraordinary long time. Norwegian acoustician and composer Tor Halmrast describes it as the most reverberant place for its size that he had ever experienced. When I sang a few notes, the notes hung in the air for 10-15 seconds. I can see why musicians like to perform there, because the reverb is very rich and seems to gradually cascade down from the ceiling.
Here is a simple balloon burst I recorded:
An acoustic analysis of the balloon burst and the acoustics can be found here.
The room is more dimly lit than the photo above shows, but after a while once your eyes have adapted to the dark you start to pick out the frescos covering the walls and ceiling that depict conception, life and death in very explicitly. One of the most famous mural is above the door just above the urn holding the artist’s ashes. A plume of babies rise above a pair of skeletons reclining in the missionary position.
A disused listening station from the Cold War that has powerful echoes from the near-spherical radome and you can whisper into your own ears.
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The abandoned spy station at Teufelsberg, Berlin is on top of Devil’s Mountain rising up from the Grünewald forest. This man-made hill was constructed from millions of cubic metres of rubble created by bombing raids and artillery bombardments during World War II. The remarkable acoustics is in the almost spherical radome on top of the highest derelict tower. These domes used to cover listening equipment used by the British and Americans to spy on the East. There are a number of different sounds effects you can play with in the dome. Climb on top of the concrete plinth and get into the middle of the sphere and the strong focus creates richocheting sounds when you clap your hands.
Alternatively, you can try whispering just off-centre, and see if you can find the right spot for whispering into one of your own ears. If you go to the side of the dome and a friend goes to the opposite side, you can use the walls as a whispering gallery. Whisper into the wall and your voice will skim the inside of the walls and your friend will hear your words apparently emerging from the graffitied walls. If instead of whispering quietly you make a loud bang near a wall, then you can hear the bang pass you several times as it does complete circuits of the dome walls. This sound example has three balloon bursts:
Being reverberant, the dome also attracts musicians to play music.
This mausoleum once held the World record for the room with the ‘longest echo’
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During the World record attempt, it took 15s for the booming reverberation caused by slamming one of the grand doors shut, to die to silence. When I visited the first floor chapel it was certainly very reverberant. It’s like being in a large church or cathedral, impressive but there are more reverberant spaces in the World. The reverberation time at frequencies imporant for speech has been measured at about 9 seconds. A guided tour around the chapel is worth taking because you can then enjoy some of the tales about the colourful Duke and his descendents. The very reverberant space attracts musicians from around the world to perform and record.
A less well known acoustic phenomenon in the chapel is the whispering walls in the cylindrical alcoves. If you and a friend stand at opposite sides, you can whisper to each other by talking into the wall.
A strange local rhyme exploits this distinctive echo.
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How can a Sound Tourist resist a road sign pointing towards an echo? Despite having no decent sound recording equipment, no aptitude at speaking French and ignoring the fact I was wearing a cycle jersey of dubious taste, I attempted to capture the event on my mobile. You might need to turn up the volume to hear the echo.
A description of the echo appears in the Rough Guide to the Loire which describes a traditional local rhyme which exploits the timing of the echo:
Me: Les femmes de Chinon sont-elles fidѐles
Me: Oui, Les femmes de Chinon
Which translates into English as:
Me: Are the women of Chinon faithful?
Me: Yes, the women of Chinon
And I can confirm the description is correct – by that I mean the echo rhyme really works, I know nothing about the faithfulness of Chinon women! The echo is a reflection from the side of the chateaux and is beautifully clear (if a little quiet for recording on a mobile).
If you exit the Château visitors’ centre northwards away from the town (it seems like the back entrance) you’ll pass L’Echo de Rabelais. Across the road you’ll see a big sign to the echo vineyard close to the smaller sign for the echo. Follow the small Rue de l’Echo for 200m and you’ll find a small raised vantage point.
Experience a impression of the ancient acoustics of Stonehenge.
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What was the acoustic like within Stonehenge thousands of years ago? It’s difficult to get an impression at the real Stonehenge because too many stones are missing or displaced. However, a trip to this complete replica in the USA gives an impression of the old site. The replica was built as a monument to those who died in World War 1. Although made from concrete rather than stone, the acoustic within the circle is similar to the original.
Rupert Till explores how a drum beat is changed by the stonecircle.
The effect of the stones can be heard by comparing these two recordings. The first is a recording of clapping away from the standing stones out in the open and the second a recording of clapping within the stone circle. The sound can be heard to ring and reverberate within the stone circle – it is surprising how long each clap rings for, considering there is no ceiling on the stone circle to stop the sound disappearing into the sky.
The Maryhill Stonehenge is part of the Maryhill Museum of Art three miles east of the museum just off Highway 14.
Sounds from Bruno Fazenda University of Salford and Rupert Till University of Huddersfield
The organ buried in the promenade makes a haunting but harmonious sound through the motion of the sea.
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Driven by waves this organ creates notes at random. Despite the unpredictability of the sounds, overall what is heard is surprisingly harmonious. This happens because the different organ pipes have been carefully tuned to only produce certain musical notes that sound good together .
The sculpture is seventy meters long and has thirty-five organ pipes built under the concrete; as you move along the promenade the sounds and harmonies change. The movement of the waves push air in and out of the organ pipes to create the notes. It was designed by architect Nikola Bašić.
Echoes off this pyramid create an unexpected chirping sound. But did the ancient Mayan’s deliberately design this sound effect?
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Tikal was the largest city of the ancient Mayan civilization and is probably Guatemala’s most famous tourist destination. If you stand at the bottom of the pyramid’s steps and clap your hands you get this incredible chirping sound. Echoes off buildings are common, but not ones that distort sound like this. Whether the pyramid was constructed to deliberately make this chirp is still a matter of debate. Reflections from the treads of the staircase are responsible for the echo. It’s down to geometry, later reflections are spaced further apart – all staircases have potential to chirp.
Website. BTW The wildlife calls in this overgrown, runied city are also stunning: parrots, toucans and even howler monkeys.
There’s crazy acoustics in this mausoleum: a whispering gallery and also an echo chamber..
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This vast 17th century mausoleum includes the second largest dome of its type in the World, but the acoustics are even more impressive. Getting to the whispering gallery underneath the dome involves climbing a hundred or so steep, crumbly steps. If you go early enough in the day when it’s not too busy, then you can test the whispering gallery. Sound hugs the inside of the dome so a whisper can be heard nearly 40m away on the other side of the gallery.
However, if you get to this place after the crowds have arrived then the soundscape isn’t so serene. Indeed downstairs, it’s more like a municipal swimming pool during a kids’ float session. They’ll be endless whooping and shouting as visitors test out the echo. The repeating echo in this building is unusual and well worth seeking out by sound tourists. Sound keeps bouncing around the dome, so that every 3 or 4 times seconds the sound whizzes past your ear. At quiet times, this repeating echo can be heard 7-10 times before it becomes inaudible.
In Vijayapura, you need to arrive early if you don’t want to be deafened by a cacophony of mass acoustic-induced hysteria.