Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Sauna acoustics

I have mentioned a rather special building in the past. It is a sauna constructed primarily in plywood in the shape of an icosahedron. I have spent many happy hours in there over the years and have heard speech, laughter, chant and song within its walls (sides?). On my last visit I was treated to some very atmospheric didgeridoo playing late one night around the full moon. This prompted me to try out the acoustic with my clarinet.

I visited in the morning, when it was cool, and set up my recorder. I then began noodling on a folky theme in (concert) D dorian which allows me to drop down to what is, for me as a Bb clarinetist, known as bottom E. A few snaps, some fun in Windows Movie Maker and result awaits below.

From the point of view of the musician I found the acoustic supportive while playing but with a very rapid decay of any reverberations. Parallel surfaces are avoided when building recording studios as they prevent standing waves from making echoes, all of which are added later to give the required sound characteristics. Although the plywood that makes up the sauna is reflective, very little of the surface area is parallel to any other side of the structure. So, unlike most indoor spaces, it has no sympathetic resonances reinforcing the volume of certain notes. Most producers and recording engineers would agree that a sympathetic natural reverb like this is preferable to one applied solely after the event. And the vibe in a studio is unlikely ever to match this sauna. I could have added a flattering 'atmosphere' but prefer it like this.


  1. Lovely , Jonathan. A celebration of the sauna! I'll be there in 2 days time so i will think of your music whilst getting hot!

  2. Thank you, and enjoy your sauna Nigel.

  3. Thankyou Jonathan. Just back from the field, and your work evoked memories of that special place. I liked the way the pictures narrated a visit to the sauna (from afar then circling then inside and then walking away). Mark