In his book, Rasmussen describes how St. Peter’s Basilica
sounds during a religious celebration. The high barrel shaped vaults overhead bounce the sound back and focus the sound
onto the center aisle. This reverberation can be irritating
and disorienting for musicians and should be minimized when designing a concert hall. However, the religious chants make good use of the reverb and create an otherworldly sound and strange sensation of misdirection that enhances the spiritual experience as the singers move down the center aisle toward the front altar.
In the late 1800’s, a Harvard engineer named Wallace Sabine solved the mystery of what makes a good acoustical space and what does not. He helped design the Boston Symphony Hall by breaking up the hard surfaces with raised ornamentation on the ceilings and niches in the side walls for statues. Even today it is considered one of the best performance halls in the world. Besides the hardness of the
From 17 Itinerari a Roma by Francois Nizet
surfaces in the room, the shape of a room has a great deal to do with dampening reverb. Parallel surfaces of hard material bounce the sound back and forth, causing dissonance and a disorienting overlapping of sounds.
The same thing can happen in a hard surfaced entry foyer of a private home. I decided to eliminate the disconcerting reverb sound in my house by making no two surfaces parallel in the entry hall. The result is a perfect performance space for piano and other instruments.