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Singing in a dome

10 Feb 99 - 04:30 PM (#58017)
Subject: Singing in a dome
From: Allan C.

I had a marvelous experience recently and wanted to share. A couple of weeks ago I spent an evening in a music dome. This geodesic wonder is about 30 feet across and the owner built it solely for the purpose of playing music in it. As I walked in I saw a stand-up bass on the left. The wall was fairly lined with guitars. A stand which was positioned about ten feet from the center of the room held a banjo, a mandolin, a dobro and a number of "mouth harps". What a playground! Some friends gather there regularly a couple of times each week. Between times, a number of them just drop by to play alone or with whoever might be around.

There were only three of us playing when I visited but we sounded much bigger. The acoustics were incredible. To stand and sing in the center spot is unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was as if I was standing outside of myself and hearing my own voice as one would (I guess) if one were standing toe to toe with me. Not like a playback. Not like a monitor. Just too cool!

The bad news is that the dome is a two-hour drive from here into the West Virginia backroads.

But now that I have found it, I plan to return as often as possible.

Anyone else found a place where the acoustics are unbelieveable?

10 Feb 99 - 04:33 PM (#58019)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Joe Offer

Well, Alice does her most serious singing in the shower - but her electronic keyboard keeps zapping her.....
-Joe Offer-

10 Feb 99 - 04:35 PM (#58020)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Frank Howe

I live in a geo dome and yes - playing and listening to music is excellent

10 Feb 99 - 04:37 PM (#58021)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Martin _Ryan

I spent a few days on Clare Island this summer - its off the west coast of Ireland. We stayed in a converted lighthouse complex. One of the original towers (there are two, for one reason or another!) was used as a simple exhibition area, with the balcony accessible for sitting out looking over a 300 foot cliff! The acoustic was incredible. One morning, Josephine (the light of my life - sorry, couldn't resist that!) was playing her fiddle in the tower when a very old lady suddenly appeared up the spiral staircase. Turned out she was the owners 84-year old mother, whom we hadn't seen during our stay. She announced that she had never been up the tower before - but had to do it to find out where this wonderful music was coming for! I'm not sure how we got her back down the stairs!


10 Feb 99 - 04:40 PM (#58022)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Bert

Hmmm, I'm surprised.

Having been a victim of the acoustics in The Royal Albert Hall I would have expected the opposite.

The acoustics there are dreadful, even with the heavy drapes that they've hung over the orchestra.
Dead spots all over the floor. It's most disconcerting when you hit a dead spot while dancing, the music just disappears completely.


10 Feb 99 - 05:28 PM (#58032)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Barbara Shaw

The Blackstone Library auditorium in Branford, CT (USA) has incredible acoustics. It's a beautiful, recently renovated domed room that holds 130 seats, with a stage, wood panelling and large windows. No sound system is needed. Great place to perform and great place to listen, if you ever get a chance to be there for a concert.

10 Feb 99 - 05:51 PM (#58033)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Art Thieme

Probably should be another thread, but the LION HOUSE at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago,for sound, was one of the WORST places I've ever done a gig! And the damn lions would begin roaring whenever I played the SAW. The jew's harp drove the winos sleeping in there absolutely nuts (plsyed through the PA system) and a bird (that shouldn't've been inside there) shat on my head. (If I'd had a tucker box, it'd've shat in there too I suspect.)

There's many gigs I've forgotten--but not that one. Took 'em 2 months to pay up the $50.00 they owed me.)


10 Feb 99 - 08:03 PM (#58055)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Alice

The Lewis and Clark Caverns. Sang a little in the tunnel on the way out of the caverns. I didn't want to interrupt the guide when we were in the 'Cathedral' room, but I really wanted to sing in there to hear how it sounds.

11 Feb 99 - 12:51 AM (#58105)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Big Mick

Oddly enough, but an old (vintage circa 1930's) car dealership in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. It was purchased by the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts. I sat there one night with a guitar player. I played Planxty's on my 12 string, played my Low D as well as other whistles, and sang ballads. The acoustics made it an almost spiritual experience. They were just amazing. It was a very fat sound and I could have sat there forever.

All the best,

Mick Lane

11 Feb 99 - 02:47 AM (#58120)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Musicman

In a completely different genre, I was singing with the Vancouver Chamber choir, a professional choir in Vancouver, BC, in the early 80's. A new Abbey had just been completed in Mission, BC about 1hrs drive from Vancouver and we were scheduled to sing a concert there on a Sunday afternoon. Beautiful church acoustics, grand place. As it would be, the piece that we started with had the singers, 40 of us, break into three 'choirs'. The men started with a low A being sung across the choirs. While we were singing, the director, Jon Washburn, stopped us and asked the Alto's not to sing with us. He was hearing the upper octave A. We started and stopped again, and again he asked the alto's not to sing. No one was singing. The basses of the choir were so in tune, the acoustics so perfect, that we were creating the upper harmonic!! Even more incredible, the alto's had the same part a bit later in the piece, they produced the LOWER harmonic, such was their tuning and the wonderful acoustics!

11 Feb 99 - 08:17 AM (#58138)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Allan C.

Bert, you are correct in wondering about dead spots. There were many in the dome. I remember moving to a place about 10 feet from the center spot where I discovered that I couldn't hear my own guitar! It was as if the sound was sucked out of it. Truly an odd experience. But the "sweet spot" more than made up for it.

Some time back there was a label used to describe small rock bands: "garage bands". I always have wondered why the term was used derogatorily. The acoustics (or, rather, the echoes) are usually quite good. Les Paul and Mary Ford liked it so well that (at least, according to my sources) they tried to figure out how to reproduce it electronically. They decided, by experimentation, that a 1/5th of a second echo was most pleasing to their ears and so created or caused to be created a device to make that echo. This, I am told, was the birth of electronic tremolo.

The dome had no echo of that sort. Just instantaneous feedback - the good kind ;-)

11 Feb 99 - 08:39 AM (#58140)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Hank

I've been their Musicman. In high school choir our director had us stop, then only tennors and alotos sing. Then just tenors, then just altos, then tenors and altos. Then down the line each alto and tenor alone, finially tneors and altos again. After 15 mintues he told us that he was hearing those extra harmonics from a tenor or alto, but nobody was singing them. Kinda cool. This was just in a boring classroom, nothing to write home about otherwise. Unfortunatly our school district had horrid accoustics everyplace. The concerts where in the lunch room, which was doomed, but it wasn't a good dome like others are talking about. (probably too big for the height, but I'm nost sure it could be made right.) and Jr high was worse, it was in the old auditorim. I understand the new high school has a stage with much better acoustics.

11 Feb 99 - 08:48 AM (#58141)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Mountain Dog

My wife and I were introduced to an unusual sound chamber a few years ago by a friend in Ouray, Colorado. He took us to the Wiesbaden Spa, a natural hot spring complex at the foot of the San Juan Mountains, and then into the Spa's vapor cave. We sat on benches carved into the sides of the low-ceilinged stone chamber and "toned" in the hot, moist atmosphere for about half an hour at a time (about all one could stand in 100% humidity and 110 degrees farenheit!). The resonance and harmonics as we alternately sang and chanted were rich beyond description. (Unfortunately, it's not a suitable place for most instruments other than the voice.)

11 Feb 99 - 09:49 AM (#58149)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Bill in Alabama

There used to be a big bluegrass festival held in Grant, Alabama, where we performed in a large cave--called, I think,Cathedral Caverns. There was a very large room where the acoustics were magnificent, for both voice and instrument. We found that we wanted to perform every acapella piece we knew. Bill Monroe actually recorded an album there in the cave. The only problem I recall was that of the water dripping on performers and audience (and, of course, the occasional bat).

11 Feb 99 - 10:35 AM (#58158)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Margo

I saw a program last night which included a short visit to the Mormon tabernacle in Salt Lake. There was a demonstration of the acoustics, and from 150 feet away everyone heard a pin drop very clearly. No wonder the choir sounds so beautiful...apart from the fact that they are good.

11 Feb 99 - 02:21 PM (#58200)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Charlie Baum

I've sung in domes with wonderful acoustics--like the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol (protest songs during a sit-in demonstration in the '70s)--and horrible acoustics--an oval shaped "multipurpose room" in the student union at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The walls were carpeted with sound-absorbent felt. It's the only time I've heard the combination of an acoustically dead space with an echo.

I've found all sorts of wonderful reverberant spaces: at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., there's the Harkness Chapel in Branford College (all stone, 30 feet long by 30 feet wide by 50 feet high!) and the small stone room underneath the Marquand Chapel at the Yale Divinity School. Since then, I've found places like the dome outdoors at the Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. (actually, there are a lot of domes in Washington, D.C.)

A few years ago, I sang with the Kartuli Ensemble (which specializes in the a cappella choral music of the Republic of Georgia) on a tour through the Eastern Midwest of the U.S. and we found one acoustic gem of a space after another. Heinz Chapel at the University of Pittsburgh and the Center Meeting House at Shakertown in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky stand out. The Shaker meeting house is so acoustically live a space that when you come into it or leave it, even with just ambient silence, you notice the acoustic difference. It was built to magnify the sounds within, like a giant sound box, and reports from the 19th century were that singing within could be heard from a distance of 2 to 3 miles away. Our chorus listened to a performance of Shaker music, and were so taken with the acoustics that we asked if we could try them out with a song from our repertoire. The reverberations were marvelous. Then we went on to tour the rest of the restored Shaker village. When we got to the Center Dwelling House, the curators and costumed interpreters in the basement welcomed us, heard that we had sung in the meeting house, and said that they were looking forward to hearing us on the third floor. We had no idea what they were talking about. But each of us, sooner or later, made his way to the third floor, and discovered there another meeting room with resonant acoustics. It was only a matter of time before enough of us gathered to start singing there. The folks in the basement heard us! And we dinally found out what they meant.

There are other times when I've encountered acoustics that just make you want to do a VERY long set so you can try out everything in the acoustically wonderful space.

I've also had the experience, like Musicman and Hank, of singing and bringing out harmonics. While it's certainly much easier to do in an acoustically resonant space, it can be done anywhere if you're really in tune. The Kartuli Ensemble recorded an album in a studio space with those foam fingers on all the walls--a space designed to stifle any resonance, which could then be added in later electronically, or so the engineer said. He was astonished when we kept producing harmonic overtones among us. All it takes is to be REALLY in tune, with a very focussed sound. But good acoustics help--we've sometimes figured out the natural resonating pitch of a performing space and deliberately tuned our singing to that key, which brings out overtones like nobody's business.

--Charlie Baum

11 Feb 99 - 02:39 PM (#58204)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: rick fielding

Ten years ago when my wife Heather and I were married in Scotland (in the shadow of Bothwell Castle) I had the experience of my life. (the wedding was OK too) Late at night I snuck out and through a bit of surreptitious climbing and squeezing got into the innards of the castle. I sang the Bonny Earl of Moray at the top of my lungs! I figured if I was going to be arrested (I wasn't) that was the way to go.

11 Feb 99 - 03:07 PM (#58208)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Alice

Charlie, what a wonderful story

11 Feb 99 - 07:40 PM (#58252)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Barbara Shaw

There are occasional times when my husband and I are singing and playing guitar and banjo when I keep hearing the telephone ring and reaching to answer it. Could this be harmonics? Just hearing things? Would harmonics be from either instrument or voice? Which is more likely to produce harmonics?

If this means that there are only occasional times that the banjo is really in tune, I'm not about to mention it . . .

11 Feb 99 - 10:13 PM (#58262)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Mary Ann

During my brief busking stint in another life, the tunnel connecting different "L" lines in downtown chicago had a great echo.

12 Feb 99 - 12:20 AM (#58277)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Michael Emory

Lots of acoustic experiences... As an avid caver in my teens I found many chambers with harmonic qualities needing the slightest vocal push. Like gently pulling a bell rope, fine tuning and timing bring amazing results. In some places you can sing one note and while it is still ringing, introduce another a fraction off of the first - you may hear a 'pulse beat'. Bowing the rim of a Tibetan singing bowl and throat singing harmonics near it also can produce hammering pulse beats. Any nearby cat will enjoy it less than you.

12 Feb 99 - 08:49 PM (#58371)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Bill D

The National Folk Festival (USA) used to be held at Wolf Trap Farms Park in Virginia, near Wash. D.C....the is a tunnel(sort of ceramic lined) going from one parking lot to the path to the main gate...a group of us were walking through it and talking, and the sound was we stopped and the woman who is now the president of FSGW, Carly Gewirz, sang "Cabin in the Corner of Gloryland" still raises the hair on the back of my neck to remember it! Not the sort of acoustics you'd want for most concerts, but WOW!!

13 Feb 99 - 02:01 AM (#58395)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Helen

Hi all, I had an amazing acoustic experience with about 10 harps and I started this thread in the harp e-mail list in April 1997. If you are interested in the other responses I recieved you can look the thread up on the harp list archives at:

The thread name was: Sing choirs of harmonic harp-angels, and it starts about a quarter of the way into the archive list. The really interesting place someone mentioned was a crystal(?) dome in the U.S. somewhere.


In 1984, when I met my first friendly harper/ists (as opposed to the decidedly unfriendly one I had met about a year before that - must have been one that slipped through the harper/ist-production net, because all the other ones I have met have been extremely friendly, pleasant and helpful) sorry, back to the story....I was at a really good national (Australian) folk festival and there were at least 10 harpers there. We held a workshop in a long, narrow practice room behind the stage of a fairly new auditorium building. The practice room had a concrete floor, maybe even concrete walls, and the ceiling was quite low.

At the time I was a total newbie to the harp and had to watch most of the time while the others played around with some tunes and exchanged ideas on techniques, etc.

So, they all decided that they would play Planxty Irwin together, and I was sitting out in the front of the group, which was sitting in a semi-circle. The distance between the wall behind me, and the wall behind them would only have been about 8 or 10 feet.

They started playing and within a very short time I began to hear the most amazing sound, which seemed to be coming from above the group. If I closed my eyes I would have sworn that there was a massed choir of angels (Hollywood style) just above the group's heads. The harmonies were close but intricate, and so full it was all I could do to stop myself from crying.

It was obviously the harmonics from all those harps in tune with each other, in a room which was very small, with the low ceiling, and excellent acoustics. I told the group what I had heard, afterwards, and they didn't seem to believe me because the group were not in the right position to hear it, in fact they looked at me as if I had gone off my rocker, but it was as close as I think I will ever get to heaven on earth, as far as music goes. I'd love to repeat the experiment and try to tape it, but I don't know enough harpers locally to do it.

13 Feb 99 - 02:31 AM (#58399)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Rick Fielding

Sounds like a good project Helen. You might have to advertise to get your harpers...but if you throw in a few meals and could happen. Tape it this time.

13 Feb 99 - 01:32 PM (#58437)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Michael Emory

Thinking of aeolian harps now.... I was once on a pier surrounded by military ships as a gust of wind passed through the many rigging wires. The audio effect to me was a very localized shimmering sound passing overheard and travelling with the wind for about ten seconds. No one else heard this as only I happened to be in the spot to hear this shifting stereo sound. I think my explanation is correct.

14 Feb 99 - 01:04 AM (#58515)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Helen


I heard something on the radio just recently which sounded like very weird techno percussion music but was actually a project by a technological musician who had attached microphones to huge bridges to get the sounds of straining wires and the movements of the engineering constructions. It sounded similar, but different, to whale music.

Rick, You're right. I should try it again, but unfortunately the venue was about 300 miles away.


14 Feb 99 - 03:12 PM (#58571)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Don Meixner

Here in central New York we have a great many retired farmsteads with silos all over the place. In my youth when I was as prone to play with explosives as guitars I would devise small noise makers to go off in these structures. The band and subsequent echo tended to be awe inspiring. Then I learned to to yodel. That too was a kick in the silos.

More recently I was building a deck and chatting with a neighbor, nothing odd there until I realized he was over 100 feet away and we were conversing as if across a table. He was adjusting the reciever on his TV dish which was aimed at me. The shape of the disc concentrated his words and sent them my way. At the same time it concentrated and gathered my speach for him. I have wondered if 2 or 3 discs, placed correctly would be the accoustic grail we have searched for for years, balanced volume without feed back.

Don Meixner

14 Feb 99 - 03:18 PM (#58574)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Felipa

Do any other Mudcatters remember singing and playing in the entrance of Anabel Taylor Hall at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York)?
I like singing outdoors, regardless of accoustics

14 Feb 99 - 03:29 PM (#58575)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Michael Emory

Related to Helen's above... I have heard/seen a sound performance piece in which the 'instruments' were untouched. Small pickups were attached to suspended metal objects (such as bicycle wheel spokes, film cans, springs,...) which are heated in the flame of a small torch. The sounds from these expanding and contracting objects was amplified. Ringing bangs, shrieks and huge gong sounds emerged. Truly amazing.

I am a wire tapper, drainage yodeller, tunnel clapper all my life.

14 Feb 99 - 03:46 PM (#58577)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: M. Emory

Helen..again, While sitting in a huge tent covered audience and listening to sea shanties, I was able rest my head on a large rope connected to timbers and canvas. The breeze generated swaying, creaks and moans were my private 'sensurround' to go with the appropriate lyrics.

Later that same day... In a crowded and very noisy cafe was a piano. Banging the keys was Derek Bell of The Chieftains. Only I could hear what he played as I laid my head on the instrument... he played boogie woogie. He played boogie woogie very well.

14 Feb 99 - 08:40 PM (#58610)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Craig

Here in California we have many Missions with great accoustics, but the one I deal with most is the San Luis Rey Mission in Oceanside, Ca. The main body of the sanctuaries walls are totally covered in plaster and the floor is paved in glazed brick. Over the intersection of the cross is a tall dome. To stand under the dome is an (a religious) experience. Also attached to the main body of the sanctuary is a small domed chapel. To sing in there accapella is to die for. I advise anyone who comes to visit the mission to try it. You will possitively cry with joy.


20 Feb 99 - 02:54 AM (#59354)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Craig

Didn't mean to kill the thread.


22 Feb 99 - 06:15 PM (#59659)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Penny

I sang briefly in a rock fissure at High Rocks, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England (High as in Greenland being green, sales pitch for the Romantic period picnic spot for those taking the waters) by the Bell Rock. The rock rings when hit, and echoes over the valley, and so does a contralto voice. I think I surprised someone with the strains of Orpheus lamenting Eurydice - seemed appropriate - issuing from below. The way the sound worked in that space was extraordinary.

19 Jan 00 - 07:12 AM (#165161)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Allan C.

A number of people have asked me about the dome where Bill Sables, Lorna, David and I gathered in West Virginia. Here is the original thread about it.

19 Jan 00 - 11:08 AM (#165239)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Peg

Every year at Brushwood Folklore Center, in July, there is a big gathering called Starwood. They erect this temporary structure called the Puffer Dome. It is basically a big canvas dome that is kept aloft with a generator that blows air into it. When one enters or leaves the dome it deflates slightly until it is sealed again. It is set up on the grass so it is not as claustrophobic as you'd think.

I performed in the dome two summers ago with Green Crown; we did a midnight concert. The acoustics?

Very spooky and weird.

You could be standing with the band playing and hear a whispered conversation on the other side of the dome twenty feet away. In certain spots near the center, you could swear sounds were being beamed through your brain from all other spots you could hear things five feet away from you better than you could hear your own voice...our concert was basically a three hour jam session and the strangeness of the acoustics allowed some songs to become very trance-inducing and otherworldy...

needless to say, many attendees of concerts in the Puffer Dome find a dose of Mother Nature's hallucinogens or happy herbs greatly enhances the experience...


19 Jan 00 - 02:35 PM (#165354)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Joe Offer

I went to Rome and Israel with a group of 30 people from my parish in November. I was chosen as the "designated singer" for the trip, and the tour guides often asked me to sing something to demonstrate the acoustics of one church or another that we visited. Can't say I came across any particularly wonderful acoustics in Rome, but there were lots of small chapels in Israel that were absolutely wonderful for singing. I got all 30 people singing their hearts out in a few of those places, and it was a real pleasure. If the acoustics are good, it's a lot easier to get a group to sing with confidence.
I was about to try singing in the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea in Israel, but we were invaded at that moment by three busloads of school kids. Spoiled the ambience, but I was glad they got a chance to see that ancient, beautiful spot by the Mediterranean.
-Joe Offer-

19 Jan 00 - 04:33 PM (#165416)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Wesley S

Many years ago I used to listen to Paul Horn's solo flute lp called "Inside the Taj Mahal" Pretty spacey stuff. He's also recorded inside some pyramids.

Our new concert hall { } has some wonderful acoustics. A jazz sax player stoped his band during one of the first shows there and stepped away from his mic so he could play "Amazing Grace" solo. I'm told it was outstanding.

I'm curious as to what this dome was made out of - were the materials anything out of the ordinary??

03 Apr 00 - 04:26 AM (#205946)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Escamillo

Please allow me to refresh this interesting thread, in relation to what was being discussed in the "Thought of the Day April 2 2000" on the subject of natural sound.
Un abrazo - Andrés

09 Nov 01 - 04:59 PM (#589248)
Subject: RE: Singing in a dome
From: Helen

There is a recent thread called
Magical Musical Moments

which reminded me of this thread.