Notes on Reverberation.


Reverberation: from the Latin verb “reverberare”, meaning to strike back, to reflect. An effect in which a sound continues after the termination of its emission.

When sound travels from its source only a small part of its energy reaches our ears directly. A much larger percentage reaches the listener through indirect paths, reflecting on walls and other surfaces before it is heard. As this reflected sound takes longer to reach the ear there is a subtle delay between it and the source point. There is also a loss in the sound’s original intensity as it becomes absorbed by various surfaces. The merging of these different signals is perceived by the ear as a single sonic effect: reverberation.

A location’s reverberation is shaped by its architectural form as well as its reflecting and absorbing materials. As the control of reverberation in our urban spaces is important for our quality of life it is vital that councils consider the absorption capacities of the materials they use when designing public spaces and infrastructure.

In contemporary society reverberation is connected with spaces of solemnity, such as in churches and halls. It is therefore associated with volume, grandeur and notions of the sacred. Conversely reverberation is also related to the irritating qualities of sound found in underground car-parks and train stations. The atmospheric quality of reverberation is such that sound editors in modern films often employ it to emphasise a sense of openness in desert and outer-space scenes, despite the fact that these locations create little to no reverberating effect.

In this composition a field recording of a wind-chime is altered in order to experiment with the concept of reverberation.

Reference: Sonic Experience by Augoyard and Togue.

6 thoughts on “Notes on Reverberation.

    1. Yes, for me too. So it’s interesting to know about it’s association with “authority”, the church, law etc. After a bit of reading it seems that the Gregorian Chants of the 10th-13th centuries were often composed with a specific church/cathedral in mind; where the reverb in these spaces would add to a type of polyphony. Is our feeling of “depth” inherited from that period, or earlier?

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