Show #216: Albums Recorded in Extraordinary Spaces

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Today’s Rhythm Planet show features musicians performing in unusual spaces with amazing natural acoustics. We start with Stuart Dempster, a classically-trained trombone player who took his ‘bone into a 13th century church, the Abbey of Pope Clement VI (1291-1352). The echo, standing wave was 17 seconds, giving him enough time to stack other notes on top of the earlier-played notes and create chords. You hear both the instrument and the abbey as well.

The second work is from flutist Paul Horn, playing inside the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid in Giza. The gongs that sound at the beginning give you a sense of this amazing space. Horn also recorded an album inside the Indian love temple, the Taj Mahal, and holds bragging rights for the longest standing wave: 45″ of reverberation. Horn was an accomplished musician who graduated from Oberlin and the Manhattan School of Music, played for years in Hollywood studios and clubs like Shelly’s Manne Hole, and later in life explored playing solo flute in different locales and locations. He even once played poolside for a bereaved orca in Vancouver, helping assuage the pain of the whale’s loss.


The final three pieces are from a most unusual album, recorded in Cologne, Germany in 1984, called Vor Der Flut (Before the Flood). Different musicians and a dance company gathered in a 19th-century cavernous underground water reservoir, which had been drained for repair by the local utility company. The album producers persuaded the authorities not to refill the reservoir until after these amazing recordings were made. Radio giant WDR also facilitated the production.

Most albums are recorded in either studio or concert hall settings. These three releases transport the listener into amazing historical locales with natural acoustics. Fortunately, all three albums are still available for those who want to further explore these unusual recordings.

p.s.: How could I have forgotten French horn virtuoso Willie Ruff’s solo album of Gregorian chant in St. Mark’s cathedral in Venice, Italy.  That’s also a must-hear, and it’s still available on the original 1980’s lp and reissued on cd.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 6/23/17

  1. Stuart Dempster / “Standing Waves: 1976” / In The Great Abbey of Clement VI / New Albion
  2. Paul Horn / “Initiation, Psalms” / Inside the Great Pyramid / Kuckuck
  3. Various Artists / “Truffeltanz” / Vor der Flut / Eigelstein
  4. Various Artists / “Invocations” / Vor der Flut / Eigelstein
  5. Various Artists / “Wall-Hall-A” / Vor der Flut / Eigelstein

Banner photo of the Pyramids of Giza by Mark Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Flickr.