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Inside a Room Built for Total Silence

Inside a Room Built for Total Silence Motherboard


“In the visual arts we have negative space,” Wyeld explains. “Negative space in the real world doesn't exist for sound, but it can exist in an anechoic chamber. For an artist, it gives you a new way to interpret what it is that you do.”

Skip back 80 hours or so, and I’m met by the LSBU Acoustic Research Centre’s Stephen Dance and Luis Gomez-Agustina, who agreed to give me access to their chamber in an attempt to experience this.

Silence—true silence—is an anomaly in everyday life. It simply doesn’t exist. The closest you might get, Gomez-Agustina explains, would be in an empty field, without wildlife, on a completely still day. The ambient volume then would be around 25 decibels. The anechoic chamber, when occupied, is around 16. The body makes too much noise for it to get any quieter. “It’s called breathing,” Dance says.

On entering, I’m hit by an unmistakable feeling of pressure. The air feels dense, like my head is being gently squeezed. “It’s an illusion,” Gomez-Agustina explains. Everybody feels it when they first visit, but he doesn’t know why. He pulls a digital barometer from his pocket. “The same as outside,” he shrugs.

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I'd imagine that level of silence is maddening.

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