We all know what it’s like sitting in a restaurant with the clatter of dishes washing over us from the direction of the kitchen. That little bit of reverberation or echo can ruin the ambience of a venue and chase a customer away for good. That echo can be put to good use too, however, like in the case of Nils Frahm’s live album ‘Spaces’ from the tail end of last year. Recorded almost exclusively with pianos Frahm built up a series of wonderfully percussive yet melodic pieces that rely on the natural acoustics of the venues he played in to achieve a glorious effect. It was one of our favourites from 2013.
An echo is, of course, the reflection of a sound arriving at the listener moments after the initial sound. While every room echoes to some extent, the time gap is often imperceptible. That is not true at the Inchindown oil storage facility near Invergordon. These giant, underground oil tanks were bored out of the ground to protect Naval fuel stores during WWII but were decommissioned in 2002, leaving the cavernous concrete holes almost inaccessible. Unless you fancy a tight squeeze through one of the many oil pipes, that is.
A Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford, Trevor Cox, took up the challenge of squeezing through one of those pipes recently and inside he discovered the world’s longest echo. By firing a blank cartridge with a gun, Prof Cox was able to record an echo lasting a surprisingly long 112 seconds. While the frequency of a sound impacts on the length of an echo, it was established that the average time taken for an echo to dissipate was 75 seconds – a Guinness World Record.
We thought we’d heard some pretty bad acoustics in our time, but this will take some beating. We’d love to know what kind of noise you could make with a decent dub soundsystem down there, though getting it down there could be a task.
You can hear Prof Cox’s gun-shot echo below.