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Don't rely on electronic black (shoe)box solution

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Although I do tend to agree with some of the comments made by Peter Phippen (Letters, AJ 4.10.01) I feel he is missing the point, especially with his attack on the shoebox and his reverence for electronic solutions.

Certainly it is a sense of proportion that dwells upon the reverberation of acoustics. But it is also the finishes and structure that account for the quality of the music played in the space. It would be a very poor acoustician who allows electricity to control the sound of a volume.

A great acoustic interior is designed and constructed like a fine Steinway pianoforte. It is up to the composer or musician to harness the quality of the instrument she or he is playing with, and within. Beethoven, Bach and Xenakis are known to have designed their compositions for the places in which they wished to hear them. We saw the latter part of the 20th century overwhelmed by the use of electricity and its ducts to mute any acoustic sensibility in design.

Please do not let us submit to electronic tricks on our ears, or discard the audible sense of our buildings just yet. The neutered sound of electronics can still not touch us in the same way as reverberant surfaces which inform us about a space. Forgive the blind man his lack of sight, and appeal to his ear!

Malcolm Dickson, by e-mail

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