Monday, 20 January 2014

The magical time of our singing

The magical time of our singing

In 2004 my wife and I strayed from the tourist route for monastery visits on the Greek island of Lesbos and chanced upon this tiny derelict Greek-Orthodox chapel. 

We could easily get inside, where there was nothing much left to be seen. Yet the acoustic of the empty building was extraordinary. Even a whisper sounded special. Curious, I stood under the centre of the dome and just droned a few tones as I looked up. Every sound, floating up into the hollow space, was magical! Very soon the two of us were improvising some rough harmonies, marvelling at how good we sounded and suddenly feeling that we might have somehow keyed into a vibe that was hundreds of years old. When we emerged after ten minutes or so there was a little group of tourists listening outside. They thought it was a concert! Ah yes, the joyful illusions of the "singing in the shower" phenomenon! The architecture did it all for us.

But seriously, what is it about the acoustics of a dome on a cube, possibly joined at the golden 5:8 proportion, that create such a full, rich sound and take us into other spheres?

Here's the watercolour I made to commemorate this intensely personal experience. I called it "The time of our singing" (with apologies to Richard Powers, the author of that brilliant novel). As my musical instrument is actually the paint-brush, this may look better than it sounded!

"The time of our singing", watercolour, 50 x 36cm. 2004.


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