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Sound Research - Seminar 3

The relationship of sound and space, from the reverberatory sounding boards in ancient cathedrals and mosques to the experiments in the 20th century

Table of contents

Stuart Franey on recording and replaying 360 degree sound and image

Stuart has been doing panoramic photographs for many years using the a method called stitching to put several images together into one 360 degree view. He recently started added directional sound recorded at the place and ambient music to his panoramas. Stuart showed a number of QTVR movies allowing him to mix different sounds while panning through the image.

You can view examples at Stuarts homepage at

recent developments in panoramic image making

Mathias have been doing similar panoramic photographs to document installation work like in these examples: Jabberwocky / Abstraction Now


Recently he has discovered a different technique to obtain such images using catadioptric sensors. Catadioptric sensors are imaging sensors built with combinations of mirrors (catoptrics), and lenses (dioptrics). The main advantage of using mirrors with cameras is that by using a curved mirror a wide field of view can be obtained. Catadioptric sensors are sometimes also known as omnidirectional sensors (see OmnidirectionalVision).

09.jpg d40optics.jpg

The last installation Mathias did as part of the Jabberwocky show listed above used such a device suspended from the ceiling. The typical strip format of the panorama gets folded into a closed ring that can be captured onto a single CCD camera chip. It is the most interesting spatial sensor he has worked with and is ideal for capturing the unique geometry of a space and its socializing potential. It is also very interesting for use in surround sound applications.

Here are notes describing the piece: JabberWockyWhiteBox and you can see a video here and here.

Jon Wozencroft on the Dragon Project, building cathedrals, mosques and Sacred Geometry

The Dragon Project

In 1977 Paul Devereux set up the Dragon Project in reference to the dragon image of China for telluric current (TelluricCurrent). A diverse group of researchers started looking into ancient sites' energies and chose the Rollright stones as a field site where they could conduct long term work. They went for various things: Ultrasound was one, which was a curious one. Infrared photography. Magnetic monitoring. And radioactivity. (see: PaulDevereux)


Already in 1975 Eduardo Balanovski, an Argentinian physicist, was invited by the dowser Bill Lewis and the writer Francis Hitching to investigate a large Standing Stone in Wales. Using a guassmeter (an instrument which measures static magnetic field strength), Balanovski was surprised to discover that significant magnetic anomalies existed around the Stone. He said that "the people who put it there knew about its power, even if they didn't know about electromagnetism."

Since Balanovski published his findings, researchers, including the Dragon Project in the late 1970's, have looked into the energies present at Stone Circles. However, most of the results have been disappointingly inconclusive. Ultrasonic pulsing has been detected at the King Stone at sunrise, although the levels varied with the seasons. During the Summer Solstice it was observed that there were no ultrasound readings within the Circle, almost as if the Stones were acting as a shield from the low background levels of ultrasound that are normally present in the landscape.

(For further information about the anomalies found by the Dragon Project at the Rollrights see "Circles of Silence" ; by Don Robins, Souvenir Press, London, 1985)

Jon's recommendation: The White Goddess : A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth by Robert Graves

Paul Devereux:
I came away with two distinct impressions. One is that a lot of the talk about energies at sites is just...crap, quite honestly. It's just belief systems that is regenerated by people who don't actually do research. The other aspect was that there are possible specific energy effects that may possibly have had use in a ritual context, such as magnetic field changes and so on. We now know that early peoples and traditional peoples, people in the rainforests and wherever, were very, very well informed about their botanical environment. Exactly what every leaf, bark, blade of grass, whatever it could do in a medicinal sense, in a ritual sense, how it could change consciousness and so on. My guess is that they were equally acutely aware of their...what we would call their geophysical environment. They would know about fault lines, for example, by the energy changes that occurred there. And also by phenomnea that occur such as balls as light, anomolous light, earthlights, whatever you want to call them.


Earth Energy


Fr. Athanasus Kirchner echoed the medieval alchemists whose writings implied that TelluricCurrent contained all the power necessary to create, transform, and transmute, all the materials of the entire planet. According to the alchemists, this energy was Spiritual in content and was found to be efficacious in both creating and transmuting matter of all kinds. However, as was well known to the Victorian Science, these upwellings of Telluric Current were only found at certain specific ground-points, which were well known to the Victorians, having been marked since very ancient times. From ancient, into medieval times, it was well know that these specific Creative energies could only be summoned by direct contact with the ground at these special sites, which were commonly held to be Sacred Land.

The Victorians prized locations deep within the Earth more highly than locations where the energy was only available at the surface of the ground. The numerous arcane grottos, and magical caverns, well known to be preferred in Victorian times by alchemists and philosophers, attest to these kinds of practices. Through a mysterious lost "masonic" architectural science, the Victorians were able to engage the powerful energies of the Telluric Current to cause alterations and upliftments of Consciousness to be experienced by the privileged individuals who had access to these sites, many of which are now included in the foundations of European churches and abbeys.

These practices appear to have originated with the Knights Templar, not their stone-mason servants. Templar architectural science employed very specific ground placements and architectural alignments. The Templars required of the stone-masons, specially selected "harmonic" geometries and the construction of mathematically-proportioned stone-chamber volumes. The Cathedral system produced by the Knights Templar had little to do with the mere exercise of military government of national regions. These constructions also exceeded the purpose of being merely mirrored-light communications towers. Templar constructions were also not reflections of some Kabbalistic system, designed to remind some of some mystical codifications.

The Cathedral system was a potent energetic system, designed exclusively to take advantage of specific upwellings of Telluric currents, with the transmutation of Earth and the human Consciousness, being the ultimate goals.

Once secured from the Earth, these powerful energetic currents were conducted by the precisely constructed stonework, allowed to expand and process through various large stone chambers, where the continually inter-twining currents would concentrate, shift, magnify, bifurcate, and ultimately interact with the chosen few. All the immense energy of the Telluric Current was put through these modulations specifically for the purpose of magnifying the Consciousness Awareness, and the intellects and hearts of the chosen few. This science can be traced historically as a rediscovery and a permuted extension of the more ancient science of Geomancy, harkening us back to the later discoveries of Luigi Galvani and Anton Mesmer.

These understandings couple into the aether descriptions of La Sage, and La Place, which they mathematically brought forth in the 1800s, as we discussed yesterday, and the researches of Tesla, Gustave Le Bon, T.T. Brown, T. H. Moray, and many others.


Sacred Geometry and Vastu Shastra

Vesicab.gif goldenmeanspiral.jpg

In nature, we find patterns, designs and structures from the most minuscule particles, to expressions of life discernible by human eyes, to the greater cosmos. These inevitably follow geometrical archetypes, which reveal to us the nature of each form and its vibrational resonances. They are also symbolic of the underlying metaphysical principle of the inseparable relationship of the part to the whole. It is this principle of oneness underlying all geometry that permeates the architecture of all form in its myriad diversity. This principle of interconnectedness, inseparability and union provides us with a continuous reminder of our relationship to the whole, a blueprint for the mind to the sacred foundation of all things created.

more online resources:


Until recent years modern society has viewed much of the world's ancient architecture and art as "simply decorative" or, in a general sense, as a tribute to God; not that it might have any "practical" function in helping us to understand the nature of the world we live in. However, recent studies in the field of sacred architecture (Vastu Shastra) by men like Keith Critchlow of the Royal College of Art in London have uncovered hidden dimensions revealing a far-reaching connection between architecture and the nature of existence. Critchlow, perhaps the best-known advocate of the theory of sacred architecture, believes that basic architectural principles on the physical level are integral with structure on the metaphysical level.

The science of Vastu Shastra is a living tradition in India and is in no danger of becoming extinct.


Jon's recommendation: The Dimensions of Paradise : The Proportions and Symbolic Numbers of Ancient Cosmology by John Michell

Imam Mosque


Imam Mosque (Masjid-e Jam 'e Abbasi), also called Masjid-e Shah (Royal Mosque) before the victory of Islamic Revolution, is one of the finest and the most stunning buildings in the world. The Mosque, begun in 1612 during the reign of Shah Abbas I and, despite the Shah's impatience, under construction until 1638 represents the culmination of a thousand years of mosque building and a magnificent example of architecture, stone carving, and tile work in Iran, with a majesty and splendor that places it among the world's greatest buildings.

The south ivan (also the largest) opens to reveal a great prayer hall surmounted by a double cupola 38 m high on the inside and 52 m on the outside (leaving a 12-meter empty space which serves as an extraordinary "echo chamber", since a speaker in the mehrab can be distinctly heard in all other parts of the mosque), its surface decoration being of the most sumptuous richness, a floral design in gold, yellow and white spiraling on a deep blue ground. In the center of the great prayer hall look out for a few black paying stones underneath the dome, which when stamped upon create seven clear echoes. Try it for yourself; everyone else does.

The fact that sound is equally carried to all parts of the dome chamber and cloisters on each side as well as to the courtyard and the lateral porches indicates that four centuries ago, Iranian architects were able to produce buildings provided with acoustics not inferior to those of any modern building.


A nice 3d animation displaying the mosque's geometry can be seen here .

more online resources:

Mathias Gmachl on arts and science collaboratives and world exhibtion pavilions

Poème Électronique at the Philips Pavilion


«Poème électronique» is the first, electronic-spatial environment to combine architecture, film, light and music to a total experience made to functions in time and space. Under the direction of LeCorbusier, IannisXenakis' concept and geometry designed the World's Fair exhibition space adhering to mathematical functions. EdgarVarese composed the both concrete and vocal music which enhanced dynamic, light and image projections conceived by Le Corbusier. Varèse's work had always sought the abstract and, in part, visually inspired concepts of form and spatial movements. Among other elements for «Poème électronique» he used machine noises, transported piano chords, filtered choir and solo voices, and synthetic tone colorings. With the help of the advanced technical means made available through the Philips Pavilion, the sounds of this composition for tape recorder could wander throughout the space on highly complex routes.

«The Philips Pavilion presented a collage liturgy for twentieth-century humankind, dependent on electricity instead of daylight and on virtual perspectives in place of terrestrial views.» (Source: Marc Treib, Space Calculated in Seconds, Princeton, 1996, p. 3)

IannisXenakis wrote about the architecture of his 1978 Diatope that picked up the principles of the PhilipsPavilion of 1958: "It replies to a forever present and unresolved question - that of what architectural form to give to musical and visual events. To me, there is no single response. But I would add that the effect of architectural forms has an almost tactile influence on the quality of the music or event being staged, an influence beyond all acoustic consideration and optimal aural and performance dimensions. Architectural forms and types are elements that are generally neglected or disregarded. Hence the cubed or polygonal rectangular hall, vertically cylindrical or even conical. Architects are inhibited when it comes to giving free reign to the imagination to create new, rich forms that re-work three-dimensional space."

from the catalogue of the exhibition "ESPACE ODYSSEE - The Odyssey of Space in Music since 1950" curated by Emma Lavigne for the Musée de la Musique, Paris, 2004

Pepsi Pavilion by E.A.T.


"This extraordinary project brought together sixty-three American and Japanese artists, engineers and scientists."

The PepsiPavilion was first an experiment in collaboration and interaction between the artists and the engineers, exploring systems of feedback between aesthetic and technical choices, and the humanization of technological systems. Klüver‘s ambition was to create a laboratory environment, encouraging ‹live programming› that offered opportunity for experimentation, rather than resort to fixed or ‹dead programming› as he called it, typical of most exposition pavilions. [...] The Pavilion‘s interior dome–immersing viewers in three-dimensional real images generated by mirror reflections, as well as spatialized electronic music–invited the spectator to individually and collectively participate in the experience rather than view the work as a fixed narrative of pre-programmed events. The Pavilion gave visitors the liberty of shaping their own reality from the materials, processes, and structures set in motion by its creators.»

(Randall Packer, «The Pepsi Pavilion: Laboratory for Social Experimentation», in: Jeffrey Shaw/Peter Weibel (eds), Future Cinema. The cinematic Imaginary after Film, exhib. cat., The MIT Press, Cambridge (Mass.), London, 2003, p. 145.)

E.A.T. (ExperimentsInArtAndTechnology) was founded in 1966 by engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer and artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman. The non-profit organization developed from the experience of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering. E.A.T. saw itself as a catalyst for stimulating the involvement of industry and technology with the arts.

Artists and the art community responded enthusiastically to E.A.T. By 1969, given early efforts to attract engineers, the group had over 2,000 artist members as well as 2,000 engineer members willing to work with artists. An ongoing Technical Services Program provided artists with access to new technology by matching them with engineers or scientists for a one-to-one collaboration on the artists' specific projects. The organization tried to have the artist work directly with engineers in the industrial environment where the technology was being developed. Technical Services were open to all artists with no judgment made about the aesthetic value of an artist's project or idea. In addition, efforts were taken to team up every artist with a suitable engineer or scientist.

E.A.T. also initiated interdisciplinary events and projects involving artists and new technology. These projects included: 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering (1966); Some More Beginning (1968), the first international exhibition of art and technology, which was held at the Brooklyn Museum; and artist-engineer collaborations to design and program the PepsiPavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka (Japan).

In 1980, to detail its activities and projects, E.A.T. put together an archive of more than 300 of its own documents: reports, catalogues, newsletters, information bulletins, proposals, lectures, announcements, and reprints of major articles. A selection of newspaper and magazine articles by others has also been included. Complete sets of this archive were distributed to major libraries in New York (U.S.), Washington (U.S.), Paris (France), Stockholm (Sweden), Moscow (Russia), Ahmadabad (India) and London (England).


German Pavilion by Karlheinz Stockhausen

With KarlheinzStockhausen is posed the question of an architecture adapted to the spatialization of music. To him, one solution would be "a spherical space on the surface of which are arranged loudspeakers. In the middle of this spherical space would be a suspended platform that is transparent and acoustically sound, where listeners would take their place." For the Universal Exhibition in Osaka, 1970, Stockhausen joined forces with the architect Fritz Borneman, to construct a spherical auditorium in the German Pavilion. The 550 listeners were placed on a central sound-permeable platform. In this way, the loud speakers totally surrounded the public. The space thus constructed was not only a space of physical perception. It was also an interior, mental space, connected to the isotropic space of the Cosmos. The auditorium of the German Pavilion stages the abolition of the concert hall, the obliteration of the physical limits to music performance space and the opening onto an interior-exterior space beyond the world.

from the catalogue of the exhibition "ESPACE ODYSSEE - The Odyssey of Space in Music since 1950" curated by Emma Lavigne for the Musée de la Musique, Paris, 2004

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