Great to talk and perform at Quora today ahead of a site takeover later in the year.
While at Quora i was invited to answer my first questions on the site... What is it like to be in the anechoic chamber at Bell Labs?
Transcript from Quora...
"Helen Keller said of the Bell Labs anechoic chamber that it was the only time she experienced true silence. This was my experience also.
I was onsite at Bell Labs and one of the engineers asked if I would like to visit the anechoic chamber (or anti-echo chamber), which was the quietest room in the world for many years and is the world’s oldest wedge-based anechoic chamber. I had nothing in my mind, no idea of the room’s history, its immense breakthrough discoveries in the audio field and with this perfectly blank canvas, the engineer proceeded to open the largest, and heaviest, door I’d ever seen… several feet thick and padded with the same wedges fitting out the rest of the chamber. There were, of course, no windows in the anechoic chamber (which measures 30 feet high by 28 feet wide and 32 feet deep) and as he sealed the door shut I walked with great curiosity across the bouncy wire mesh floor, which held you suspended several feet up so that your ear was dead centre, and felt like I was entering this wonderful and bizarre sonic vacuum.
I had been warned that I might feel odd (people often did), how you could hear the blood rushing through your veins, and of the strange phenomena experienced by both your mind and sensory input after prolonged time spent in the chamber. I was told that most people couldn’t stay in there longer than 10 mins.
Instead I felt an immense feeling of calm wash over my body, my heart slowed, I breathed deeper. It was like my whole system relaxed, my body exhaled and I was just drinking in the silence, the calm, the stillness. Then very slowly I started playing music (I had my guitar with me) and observed with great curiosity the music in that space, like a tiny delicate thread, so thin, so pure and sinuous. I observed the profound silence between the notes - like a heavy blanket of snow deadening the sound and devoid of all echo - and thought, if music is the space between the notes, then this is music like I’ve never heard. And finally that quote really made sense to me.
As I played, this silence played fine tricks of madness on my mind, making me think the music was stopping and starting, stopping and starting, and also getting louder and then quieter (the chamber was used for psychoacoustic work) but I kept on, kept unpicking that thread. The sound was so small, so focused, so laser sharp in its purity, without anything to enhance, alter, blend, soften, smooth - the opposite to a reverberant cathedral. It was beautiful in its ugliness. Because most importantly, it was real. I was hooked. A hour passed without me even noticing. Unlike the sick feeling I had been warned about, I felt revived. Unlike the panic of being alone with my thoughts, I felt serene. Instead of recoiling at the rawness of the sound, I wanted more.
That was the beginning of Raw Space… hearing what true silence sounds like."