rachel Douglas Poster

The Sound of Worship: Architectural acoustics in British ecclesiastical space 1800-1900

Architectural acoustics is the control of sound within a space by the design and manipulation of that space. Who decides on and implements this control and how effective it is, is particularly interesting in an ecclesiastical context where one might expect those in clerical roles to dominate the soundscape. In nineteenth century Britain, no one group of people had an exclusive claim to acoustic expertise, and neither was there one theory or set of rules for design that was held to be indisputably correct. Indeed, many architects argued that such a set of rules could not exist for such a complex subject. Furthermore, significant church-building programs along with disagreements over liturgical reforms and architectural style kept ecclesiastical architecture as an important topic during this time. In this paper I present some examples from my research that show how claims to acoustic control and expertise were negotiated by and between architects, clergy, organists and others.


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