Growing up in a church that was similar in architecture and volume to a small cathedral, I could relate to much of what Rasmussen was discussing in “Hearing Architecture”. Although it was not quite so large and domed that the minister had to sing or talk rhythmically to address the congregation, the large vaulted ceiling of the church caused much reverberation so that when the choir sang there was a beautiful, ethereal quality to their voices. This made the experience of attending church seem more heavenly and sacred, and the large volume of the sanctuary which caused such an acoustical quality created a grand kinesthetic experience of all its own. This was definitely an example of how one can “Hear Architecture”. The acoustic quality of the church service was directly affected by the high vaulted ceilings -- a purposeful decision made by the architect to create an grandiose and heavenly sound experience that reflected the sacred meanings of the hymns the choir was singing. After attending other churches, I missed the beautiful sounds that reverberated in the sanctuary. Unfortunately this tonal quality cannot be replicated unless the correct architecture is in place to cause it, which is rare in the more modern churches of today.
Another experience that I am familiar with along with most other people is the change in sound quality when in a bathroom covered in sound reflecting tile. Singing in the shower can make the tone anyone’s voice sound better, especially when singing long vowel sounds, due to reverberation. As a chorus member throughout high school, I would always rehearse songs in the shower because of the rich tone it would give my voice due to the reflective tile. Many other people sing in the shower for this reason. Bathrooms generally don’t have absorptive materials in them so nothing hampers the sound’s ability to bounce off of the tile surfaces and cause a slight echo. Bathrooms with higher ceilings enhance this effect, but can almost hinder the ability to understand someone if you are talking to them because the words you say take so long to bounce back to you and run together if you are talking at a normal speed. People generally do not have long conversations in the bathroom, but I have been on the phone with people who are standing in a bathroom and it is very hard to hear due to the high level of reverberation. This is why in environments such as living rooms, restaurants, and offices where people will be holding long conversations, good acoustic quality and absorptive materials are crucial to one’s ability to understand speech. Dining in restaurants with little to no absorptive materials, such as East Coast Wings on Tate Street, can be very frustrating because you cannot hear the person you are talking to over the din of other people’s conversations bouncing off of the walls.
Sound quality is very important to the experience of a space. It can either cause the experience to be pleasant, such as a reverberant cathedral, or unpleasant, such as a noisy restaurant. It is up to the designer to ensure that the acoustics in a space matches the needs of the user.