The anechoic chamber is in the Acoustic Research Unit at the University.
It's 5 x 4 x 2.6m in size, and as you can see, its primary function
is to test the noise levels of various bits of equipment. The walls
are entirely covered with those foam pyramidy things you can see
in the photo, and the floor is suspended over some more of them.
Playing in there is a bit odd, cos the sounds don't match what you
see: whether you realise it or not, you're conditioned to expect
spatial information when you make a noise in a room, and in an anechoic
chamber, you're denied this entirely. You hear the noise of your
instrument, but nothing else at all.
had a blast: the room is incredibly detailed, and we had a lot
of fun blowing microtones to get the difference tones out of them,
and playing around with the noise of the keywork on our horns.
the same unit they've also got a totally reverberant room, which
they use for testing soundproofing. We didn't get time to nip
in there, but that is one scary acoustic. No idea how you make
one of those: it looked like a normal, medium-sized room, but
every frequency came back at you like a wave. Very odd.
I think my favorite of the locations was the anechoic chamber. In
this place, the difference between what you hear & what you
see is extraordinary - you see these LONG yellowed cones of foam
closing in on you from all sides, but you hear NO walls, NO floor,
NO floor or ceiling, no surfaces around you at all. One result of
this isthat the small sounds which would normally be drowned out
in the backwash of reverberance become more noticeable - sounds
of breathing, crackle of spittle, fingers on keys, the reed just
starting up and stopping...and one's own hert, breath inside, movements
- event he blinking of your eyes, reminding me at least that as
a child I had time and energy to listen to all these sounds from
within. This emphasis on the physical sources of our sounds made
me very happy at the time, and I still yearn to repeat the experience
now. Of course, the anechoic chamber was also the space furthest
from day-to-day acoustics (unless one is a hot air balloonist).