The acoustics of the theatre of Epidaurus
March 28, 2007 3:24 PM   Subscribe

An ancient theatre filters out low-frequency background noise. The ancient Greek theatre of the Asklepieion of Epidaurus, built mostly during the 4th century B.C. and now a World Heritage Site, is renowned for its extraordinary acoustics. Researchers have figured out that the arrangement of the stepped rows of seats are perfectly shaped to act as an acoustic filter, suppressing low-frequency background noise while passing on the high frequencies of performers' voices. [Via MoFi.]
posted by homunculus (16 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The Nature article also links to an article on the 'chirping' pyramid, which was the subject of this post.

More on acoustics and Mayan architecture.
posted by homunculus at 3:26 PM on March 28, 2007

Although ancient Greek cellphones were terribly large and made mostly from stone, there are remarkably few instances of them disrupting performances.
posted by Dizzy at 3:53 PM on March 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Interesting. Anyone know how to calculate the corner frequency of such a structure?
posted by caddis at 4:07 PM on March 28, 2007

Only the early versions were stone Dizzy, most ancient Greeks found them too heavy (though the standby time was very impressive.)

The hipper, more in-the-know, Greek geeks used fire.

Of course, this would probably be very disruptive in a theater. What with people yelling "Fire!" and others responding, "Oh, is it for me?"

Much confusion and burning was had by all.
posted by quin at 4:16 PM on March 28, 2007

True. Less dropped calls with fire.
Them Greeks was smart.
posted by Dizzy at 4:21 PM on March 28, 2007

suppressing low-frequency background noise

So we can assume the ancient Greeks weren't all that into hiphop, reggae, Miami bass...

Nice post, homunculus.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:51 PM on March 28, 2007

Epidaurus is still used quite often, especially during the summer months. It's probably the No 1 "prestige" theater for the (very big, relatively to population) Greek theater world (No 2 will be the beautiful Herodeion at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens. In fact, the running joke here is that every actor is looking for some vehicle or other to appear at the Epidaurus.

I OTOH, hate the staccato, loud rhythm of Greek actors that I am convinced is pounded into them in school so they can play in open-air theaters like Epidaurus and other, more modern ones around Greece. It's distracting and annoying in a TV show or movie...
posted by costas at 6:17 PM on March 28, 2007

Fascinating take on modern Greek actors-- is their "staccato-ness" a function of the language itself, or a lack of the requisite "scaling down" that stage actors often miss when they transition from stage to the intimacy of the small screen?
I've never had the pleasure of seeing a Greek play or movie-- any emblematic examples you could cite?
posted by Dizzy at 7:01 PM on March 28, 2007

Cool stuff, homunculus. Also enjoyed your Mayan acoustics link, with such tidbits as:
[W]eird sound effects seem to be par for the course at the sites of Maya ruins. Chichen Itza also has "musical phalluses": a set of stones that produce melodic tones when tapped with a wooden mallet.
¡LOL Cojonophone!
posted by rob511 at 7:22 PM on March 28, 2007

while passing on the high frequencies of performers' voices

See? Even in Ancient Greece, the theatre folks were... well, theatrical.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:49 PM on March 28, 2007

excellent link(s). thanks.
I remember seeing this kind of thing and wondering how in the hell people lost so much knowledge...
posted by Busithoth at 9:58 PM on March 28, 2007

Here's a youtube link for those of you wondering how the Mayan pyramid does the clap/quetzal sound.
posted by micayetoca at 8:29 AM on March 29, 2007

There are a bunch of YouTube videos of Epidaurus too.
posted by homunculus at 9:56 AM on March 29, 2007

wondering how in the hell people lost so much knowledge

maybe the knowledge isn't lost but just buried under complexity?

and i imagine there's some economical impracticalities with dealing with large sums of stone when a lapel mic and a couple klipsch speakers would suffice.

although, i guess the middle ages wipes out both of these arguments fairly cleanly.
posted by pokermonk at 12:13 PM on March 29, 2007

Ancient wreath returns to Greece
posted by homunculus at 4:27 PM on March 29, 2007

Dizzy: no, I don't think it's the language (otherwise, why would I notice it as a native speaker?) And my theory is bolstered by the fact that younger actors (that probably don't have as much theory experience) have more "natural" voices on TV.
posted by costas at 8:43 PM on March 29, 2007

« Older "i honestly don't have a recollection..."   |   A supertree showing mammalian evolution Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments