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Sounds Like…?

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Written by Basil on 01/14/2003 9:41 PM. Filed under:

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In reading the archives of OrthodoxPSALM, I came across this document: Acoustical Guidelines for Orthodox Churches, a PDF file that outlines important acoustic considerations for Orthodox churches. It is written by Reader David Nelson, an architect at St. John the Forerunner parish (Antiochian) in Austin, Texas.

In part, it confirms what I learned from Why Catholics Can’t Sing, by Thomas Day. The acoustics of a church must be such that they encourage people to sing. This document provides words to talk about what Day knows intuitively.

Envelopment: the sensation of sound coming from other locations in the room and from all directions. For congregational singing, this is an important factor. If parishioners hear other people singing at least as loudly as themselves, they tend to sing with more confidence. If people only hear themselves, they generally sing more tentatively if at all. Envelopment is generally supported by a higher degree of reverberation.

This document also places into a very humane acoustical context the divergent demands of leaders of the church, who need to be heard and understood, choir directors and musicians, who want beauty and congregational participation, and mothers, who don’t want their children’s shuffling and whispering to be broadcast to every other worshipper.

However, I think the most important thing for a young parish like St. Athanasius is this “Ha Ha Only Serious” quip at the beginning:

If an acoustical consultant is to be retained, this should be done at the earliest possible stage of building design. Early design decisions can lead to success or can be all but unrecoverable. I tell my clients, ‘If you’ve drawn a diagram on the back of a napkin, it’s almost too late to call….’

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One Response to “Sounds Like…?”

  1. Chris J. Davis Says:

    Hah! I spit on your no Comments! I have commented anyway… only You will never see it! Hah! Have at you! Uhhh… yeah.