“What you do, what you say and what you think can influence other people by morphic resonance.”*

*Rupert Sheldrake

From: Survey of London: Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area, Royal Albert Hall. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1975:

“…The notorious acoustic problems that have beset the hall through most of its history were probably rooted in the multifarious conception of its functions held by (Sir Henry) Cole, in which visibility for many different purposes was as much a desideratum as audibility. Fergusson and H. H. Statham were two contemporary critics who thought Cole’s adherence to the amphitheatre basically misguided. Cole, Fowke and Scott were, however, certainly not neglectful of the problem. Cole’s diary records visits to theatres with Scott, when they noticed the acoustics. The building of the lecture theatre at the South Kensington Museum itself ensured Cole’s involvement in acoustical experiments in 1869, and Scott’s account of the hall given to the Royal Institute of British Architects testifies to his own preoccupation with the question. He received a diversity of advice on the degree of resonance to aim at, and decided, he says, on ample, but not excessive, resonance, that might be reduced by draperies. To achieve this he lined much of the hall with wooden battens three quarters of an inch from the wall. During the construction of the hall Cole thought the effect would be splendid. The hall was ‘as sonorous as the board of a Cremona! You can hear the most delicate harmonies on a fiddle in the most distant part from the player and it will be one of the wonders of the age.’ And again, ‘It is as sonorous as a great Double Bass.’ While the interior scaffolding was in place most people agreed with him, and noted the ‘bell-like clearness’ as the builders sang at their work. But in February 1871, with the scaffolding removed, an ominous entry appeared in Cole’s diary: ‘found Echo in Balcony’. Again a week later he noted, ‘Echoes in Hall very curious’. The echo made itself unfortunately obvious during the Prince of Wales’s reading of his address at the opening ceremony. The Builder promptly announced that with his velarium Scott had ‘bound the recalcitrant echo in a transparent web’, and for some purposes the acoustics of the hall remained excellent. But the long history of deceived hopes that the echo had died continued until recently, when the introduction of suspended glass-fibre ‘diffusers’ in 1968–9 would appear to have ended the trouble…”

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