Grey Room

Space within Space: Artificial Reverb and the Detachable Echo

Jonathan Sterne

Doepfer. A-199 spring reverb, ca. 2015.


The article focuses on artificial reverberation as a practice that carries forward the modernist proposition which the author calls the “detachable echo,” the elimination of a necessary, given relationship between a sound and its reverberation in space. The detachable echo multiplied spatial perspectives for listeners and proliferated possible sonic configurations and modes of representation, thus granting sonic space a new level of plasticity. The separation of sound and reverberation did not lead to the discarding of the latter “noise,” as some acousticians may have argued, but rather to an increased mobility, flexibility, and layering of acoustic space that are now becoming especially pronounced with augmented and mixed reality.