Sunday, February 5, 2012

Reverb untamed

Reverb has allays been my friend, both the natural and electronic kinds. While the "soup" simile may not be very attractive, it's better than the dry toast effect you get in some dead concert halls. Sibelius remarked somewhere that the orchestra needs a "pedal" and his orchestration often demonstrates that built in kind of resounding acoustic.
The other night I went to a concert of the Dessoff Choirs "Bach Refracted" st the cavernous Church of St Paul the Apostle near Columbus Circle. Two of my pieces, September Canons and Holy Ghosts, were played by two excellent musicians, Todd Reynolds and Libby van Cleve, and in both cases we had to tone down the reverb as the space itself was delivering plenty--too much in fact. This was especially apparent in the choral music--the strange effect was that the initial attack was at a lower level than the echo, and there was plenty of that.The idea that a space might not only reverberate sound but actually amplify it as well is kind of unusual.
Last night I happened to be watching the wonderful film Passage to India. There is a marvelous scene at the spooky Malabar Caves where the echos produced disappear momentarily and then come back louder.I'm not sure if this is possible acoustically, but it made for a awesome moment in the film.The strange echo in St Pauls seemed to me to mimic that. I wonder if Paul of Tarsus ever got to India? He certainly traveled a lot.