Reading Response 2016-09-29 01

  • Title: Echo and Reverb – Fabricating Space in Popular Music Recording, 1900-1960
  • Format: Paperback
  • Date: 12 Dec 2005
  • Author: Peter Doyle
  • ISBN-10: 0819567949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819567949
  • Publishers Description: Echo and Reverb is the first history of acoustically imagined space in popular music recording. The book documents how acoustic effects-reverberation, room ambience, and echo-have been used in recordings since the 1920s to create virtual sonic architectures and landscapes. Author Peter Doyle traces the development of these acoustically-created worlds from the ancient Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus to the dramatic acoustic architectures of the medieval cathedral, the grand concert halls of the 19th century, and those created by the humble parlour phonograph of the early 20th century, and finally, the revolutionary age of rock ‘n’ roll. Citing recordings ranging from Gene Austin’s ‘My Blue Heaven’ to Elvis Presley’s ‘Mystery Train,’ Doyle illustrates how non-musical sound constructs, with all their rich and contradictory baggage, became a central feature of recorded music. The book traces various imagined worlds created with synthetic echo and reverb-the heroic landscapes of the cowboy west, the twilight shores of south sea islands, the uncanny alleys of dark cityscapes, the weird mindspaces of horror movies, the private and collective spaces of teen experience, and the funky juke-joints of the mind.

This post not intended as a review, critique or recommendation. The lines which follow are a personal response to the written text, compiled as record of reading and as a resource for future investigation.

The book is a dense, but well written and carefully researched work. One has to admire an author who can reference both Vaughn Monroe’s 1946 sound recording of Riders In The Sky and Giles Deleuze/Felix Guattari’s 1986 joint publication A Thousand Plateus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia in his opening pages. Rich with references the book suggests many possible directions for further development.

In practical terms this has inspired me to continue work developing a passive spring reverb. The proposed system uses four reverb tanks which act together to create complex interactions. Designed without amplification, the device requires no external power and is intended for use within a mixer fx loop.

It is significant to note that the book has a research cut off date of 1960. Significant developments after this time would include Pauline Oliveros’ experiments with tape delay, Alvin Lucier’s 1969 performance piece “I am sitting in a room”, Nicolas Collins’ 1974 sound work “Peasoup” and the development of dub reggae. As a direct response to the Doyle text and these later developments practical experiments have begun to develop echo/reverb patterns using AlsaModularSynth, Ecasound, SonicPi and PureData.

Another proposal is to return to work begun earlier this year to recreate the recording techniques used in Jamaican studios in the early 1960s.

Written works consulted in response to the text have included:

A final possible area for future investigation would be to progress ideas into the area of Impulse Response. A forthcoming show at Hoults Yard (Newcastle) is to be considered as a venue for siting an art piece referencing these principals. Another possibility would be to develop a library of impulse response samples using the spring reverb device for future use and possible distribution.