The Cathedral of Noyon houses the most unusual—and largely unknown—installation of acoustic vases in Western Europe, the caveau phonocamptique, a chamber installed beneath the pavement of the crossing. Acoustic vases are simple earthenware pots placed in the walls and vaults of postclassical churches, their installation inspired by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio's De architectura libri decem. In Acoustics at the Intersection of Architecture and Music: The Caveau Phonocamptique of Noyon Cathedral, Andrew Tallon investigates the intended operation of the caveau as a monumental amplifier. According to the principle of conservation of energy, the effect of an acoustic vase can only be one of absorption, but when sung directly into, a vase appears to “sing back.” Tallon asserts that this effect, along with the importance of Vitruvius as the foremost authority on ancient architecture known to European builders and patrons, must ultimately account for this unique array at Noyon.
Acoustics at the Intersection of Architecture and Music: The Caveau Phonocamptique of Noyon Cathedral
Andrew Tallon studies medieval architecture, premodern acoustics, and the representation of architectural space. His first book, Notre-Dame de Paris, coauthored with Dany Sandron, was published in 2013; an English edition is under contract with Penn State University Press. http://faculty.vassar.edu/antallon
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Andrew Tallon; Acoustics at the Intersection of Architecture and Music: The Caveau Phonocamptique of Noyon Cathedral. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 1 September 2016; 75 (3): 263–280. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jsah.2016.75.3.263
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