Ton IRT (c) BR/Peter Meisel
Markus Steckeler in an anechoic chamber of the "Institut für Rundfunktechnik" (IRT).

SOUND WITHOUT SPACE

EXPERIENCES IN AN ANECHOIC CHAMBER

Whether we talk, hear a noise or make music, what we perceive is always a combination of direct sound and its reflections, which reach us via walls, ceilings and so forth after various time lags. But what about “pure” sound? What does it sound like? And what impact do reflections have on the generation of sound, and thus on music-making?

To experience this at first hand, members of the Bavarian RSO entered an anechoic chamber at the Munich Institute of Broadcasting Technology in Freimann and played their instruments.

In this special room, every wall, the ceiling and even the floor are covered with absorbent wedges of mineral or glass wool to obtain a special nonreverberant state.

Not only is it a challenge to make music in an anechoic chamber, it’s unpleasant simply to be inside one. The human ear unconsciously obtains a large amount of information about its surroundings from the sequence, loudness and sonic shape of the reflections that attach to direct sound: the distance from the speaker, the size of the room, whether its walls are of hard stone or warm reverberant wood, dampening carpets, doors opening onto other rooms, and so forth. When all this information vanishes we feel disoriented and ill at ease, even to the point of nausea or stomach cramps.

Markus Steckeler (side drum), Hanno Simons (cello) and Martin Angerer (trumpet) demonstrate
– how their instruments sound without ambient reflections,
– how their playing sounds when rich spatial acoustics (audible only to the musicians) are played on headphones, and
– how the same piece of music sounds in the acoustics of Hercules Hall.

Side Drum

Cello

Trumpet