Re-imagining Space Field Recording #3 - Perth City Hall
Having exchanged several emails PKDC gave permission to access the old Perth City Hall. Having stood empty for nearly 8 years, as the cities premier concert hall and civic heart for a hundred years it seemed an obvious choice to take IR recordings to de-convolve into reverbs. Having arranged to meet Jonathan from the city council he gave me access through the side door to the hall and left me to get on with the fieldwork, leaving instruction the pull the door locked when finished.
Being in such a large building having been built for large crowds and as the civic centre to the city, it felt eerie being left alone. My research collaborator Paul was not available at the time of this site visit. I also have a personal connection to the hall having graduated here as an undergrad student many years previous!
The main and lesser hall had a feeling of having just been vacated and minor work by labourers a few years earlier and the odd pile of pigeon dung here and there the only evidence of living beings having been there at all. There were odd bits and pieces of debris laying around, partially removed fixtures and an accumulation of dust over everything.
Entering the Lesser Hall at the back of the main hall I was immediately impressed by how well preserved the 1911 Edwardian, blue cake icing decor was and immediately struck by the fabulous long, linear reverb. I spent a while enjoying having the space to myself, uninhibited I recorded the IR balloon pops and indulged in some gregorian style vocalisations. Plenty of photographs, some video and stereoscopic photographic records were taken. As with other rectangular buildings I have sampled I positioned myself in front of the small stage (cordoned off by building engineers) to pop the balloon, with the recording equipment positioned approximately one third into the hall from the rear wall. Despite being a large rectangular shaped room, the reverberant quality of the room has a really nice, smooth quality with little audible build up of resonant frequencies.
Moving into the main hall, an even larger, multi-tiered, balconied room with a large stage at one end the ceiling in the main hall is curved. The stage still has it's tiered seating at the sides and the pipe organ elevated area at the rear, the organ having been removed for a new home in Australia. Having a lot more large feature fittings, the main hall seemed to have little reverb despite it's size. However upon recording the first impulse responses the room revealed a really interesting, if not wholly pleasant reverb with a pronounced flutter echo. Due to the fittings the rooms reverb is much shorter than the lesser hall having more surface area at odd angles to break up and diffuse the reverb tail. The flutter echo is the result of any sound building up under the balcony and bouncing around in the space contained around the edges of the room.
IR recordings were taken from a third into the room from the rear wall for the recording equipment and a third in from the front of the stage. Second recordings were taken with the recording equipment in the same position and the IR balloon pop on the stage, the stage having some 6 feet elevation above the floor. It's worth pointing out that the only remaining seats are in the balcony. A final recording was taken, this time with the recording equipment positioned in the centre of the rear balcony, the IR position from the stage. Again much metadata was taken in the main hall. I completed the field recording trip having a good wonder around the building. It is hoped that a further site visit can be set up and that Paul and I may have the opportunity to take further readings and data gathering.
Whilst not a building of ancient historic significance the fact that the building may never be used for it's original purpose or be demolished in the future this is a significant field study with relevance in the fields of archaeoacoustics, digital heritage and acoustic ecology.
Many thanks to PKDC and particularly Jonathan James.
The rambling thoughts and musings of an audio engineer/sound designer turned archaeoacoustician