Preserving the acoustics of derelict buildings

I’ve come across a US project which wants to preserve the acoustics of old buildings. There have been a few projects in Europe doing this, which have concentrated on ancient churches, Roman theatres and concert halls. But in the American project, the places are mostly not photogenic, the attraction is to listen to the sound. This video below of Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia, plays a piece of music through different spaces in the old stone hospital. It is one of the best demonstrates I have heard of how the room acoustics change how music sounds. [1]

On my travels, I have found that derelict sites often have the best sounds. When I was asked about some of the weirdest places I had visited by the BBC, one of the places I wrote about was a disused water reservoir in Scotland.
If you like the idea of preserving the acoustic past, Acoustic Archives have launched a Kickstarter campaign to do more work like the video of the asylum. Earlier this year, another Kickstarter campaign raised enough money to preserve The Tank, a sixty-foot-tall water tank. Sound artist Bruce Odland who championed the campaign to Save The Tank said, “If sounds were paintings, the Tank would be the Sistine Chapel.”[1]

Save the Tank

Do you have any favourite derelict buildings with stunning acoustics? Please comment below.


[1] The reverberation times quoted on the video are dominated by low frequencies, which is why they are so large.

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0 responses to “Preserving the acoustics of derelict buildings”

  1. Myself and a bunch of friends explored the acoustics of a disused underground car park for a couple of years, leading to many hours of recordings (and footage, and photos, and paintings, and writing), some of which can be heard here if yr interested:
    and more here:
    I enjoyed the article by the way, I like the idea of preserving the sound of spaces like these as they often end up falling so far into disrepair and neglect that someone inevitably shows up and demolishes them. Photographs are fine and all but there’s something about the acoustics of a place that can be just as evocative.

  2. There’s a culvert on the Uncle Sam Bikeway in Troy, NY, that combines the squeaking echo of staircases and corrugated surfaces with the wobbly reverberation of round spaces. I recorded myself clapping and whistling at various points in the culvert and posted the audio and video results:
    (Yes, I’m the same person who discovered the whistling fence in Indiana.)
    Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting the Troy Gasholder, which is a large cylindrical domed brick structure that has been used as a performance space in recent years. I wish I’d had a recording device; the reverb and echo from the center of the floor was twisting and three-dimensional.

  3. This sounds (?) like a great project.
    Before their amazing refurbishment (compare with poor old Battersea Power Station, and weep), the Gasometers in Vienna were empty for many years. The internal gas holders had been removed leaving only the empty stone towers.
    One of them was regularly used for raves and techno music events, some of which I worked at. This building had the most amazing acoustics I have ever heard. As well as a classic Whispering Gallery effect near the walls, the shape and height of the building caused a wonderful series of discrete echoes, followed by an an extremely long reverb tail of around 2 minutes. Endless fun could be had, whilst installing the event stage and equipment, by bashing various objects together and listening to the result.
    It is a terrible shame that nobody recorded the sound of this building before it was too late.

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