Sunday, 16 April 2017

The time of our singing

The magical time of our singing

(I posted this blog in 2014, but I feel it's worth sharing with my friends who missed it).

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 acoustics of the empty building were extraordinary. Even a whisper sounded special. Curious, I found the "sweet spot" under the centre of the dome and just droned a few tones as I looked up. Every wordless 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 had 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, perhaps joined in a golden organic relationship, that create such a full, rich sound and take us into other spheres? The Greeks knew so much about acoustics, harmony, art and architecture that we have forgotten, or ignored.

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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