Venice's Church of the Most Holy Redeemer has held a musical celebration every year since its construction in 1592. And recently, the church has inspired debate among historians: How could its echoing chambers clearly portray the complicated music performed during the festival?
A New York University doctoral student named Braxton Boren decided to find out. He recorded a choir within a non-echoing chamber. [first sound sample]
Next, he fed that audio into a computer simulation that he built based on the dimensions and materials of the church. [second sound sample] The muddled reverberations matched actual acoustic measurements taken within the empty church, demonstrating that the simulation was accurate.
Finally, Boren recreated what the music sounded like when the church was filled with sound-absorbing tapestries and people. [third sound sample] The new simulation reduced reverberations from seven seconds long to three and a half, making the music much clearer.
And so Boren settled the argument. Although to some historians he was preaching to the choir.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]