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Ancient Greek Amphitheater: Why You Can Hear From Back Row

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Bianca
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« on: December 27, 2008, 10:59:07 am »











                                  Ancient Greek Amphitheater: Why You Can Hear From Back Row






ScienceDaily
(Apr. 6, 2007)

— As the ancient Greeks were placing the last few stones on the magnificent theater at Epidaurus in the fourth century B.C., they couldn’t have known that they had unwittingly created a sophisticated acoustic filter. But when audiences in the back row were able to hear music and voices with amazing clarity (well before any theater had the luxury of a sound system), the Greeks must have known that they had done something very right because they made many attempts to duplicate Epidaurus’ design, but never with the same success.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have pinpointed the elusive factor that makes the ancient amphitheater an acoustic marvel. It’s not the slope, or the wind — it’s the seats. The rows of limestone seats at Epidaurus form an efficient acoustics filter that hushes low-frequency background noises like the murmur of a crowd and reflects the high-frequency noises of the performers on stage off the seats and back toward the seated audience member, carrying an actor’s voice all the way to the back rows of the theater.

The research, done by acoustician and ultrasonics expert Nico Declercq, an assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech Lorraine in France, and Cindy Dekeyser, an engineer who is fascinated by the history of ancient Greece, appears in the April issue of the Journal of the Acoustics Society of America.

While many experts speculated on the possible causes for Epidaurus’ acoustics, few guessed that the seats themselves were the secret of its acoustics success. There were theories that the site’s wind — which blows primarily from the stage to the audience — was the cause, while others credited masks that may have acted as primitive loudspeakers or the rhythm of Greek speech. Other more technical theories took into account the slope of the seat rows.

When Declercq set out to solve the acoustic mystery, he too had the wrong idea about how Epidaurus carries performance sounds so well. He suspected that the corrugated, or ridged, material of the theater’s limestone structure was acting as a filter for sound waves at certain frequencies, but he didn’t anticipate how well it was controlling background noise.

“When I first tackled this problem, I thought that the effect of the splendid acoustics was due to surface waves climbing the theater with almost no damping,” Declercq said. “While the voices of the performers were being carried, I didn’t anticipate that the low frequencies of speech were also filtered out to some extent.”

But as Declercq’s team experimented with ultrasonic waves and numerical simulations of the theater’s acoustics, they discovered that frequencies up to 500 Hz were held back while frequencies above 500 Hz were allowed to ring out. The corrugated surface of the seats was creating an effect similar to the ridged acoustics padding on walls or insulation in a parking garage.

So, how did the audience hear the lower frequencies of an actor’s voice if they were being suppressed with other background low frequencies? There’s a simple answer, said Declercq. The human brain is capable of reconstructing the missing frequencies through a phenomenon called virtual pitch. Virtual pitch helps us appreciate the incomplete sound coming from small loudspeakers (in a laptop or a telephone), even though the low (bass) frequencies aren’t generated by a small speaker.

The Greeks’ misunderstanding about the role the limestone seats played in Epidaurus’ acoustics likely kept them from being able to duplicate the effect. Later theaters included different bench and seat materials, including wood, which may have played a large role in the gradual abandonment of Epidaurus’ design over the years by the Greeks and Romans, Declercq said.


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Adapted from materials provided by Georgia Institute of Technology.
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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2008, 11:00:45 am »



                The Theater at Epidaurus on the Peloponnese in Greece.

                 
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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2008, 11:08:01 am »

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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2008, 11:11:49 am »

   
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2008, 11:15:08 am »

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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2008, 11:18:35 am »

   
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2008, 11:21:08 am »

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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2008, 11:22:38 am »





       
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« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2008, 11:25:55 am »





       
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« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2008, 11:29:14 am »

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« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2008, 11:40:09 am »





             

               THE GREEK PHYSICIAN GOD ASKLEPIOS
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« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2009, 08:06:25 am »









                                     In Ancient Dramas, Vital Words For Today's Warriors






by Elizabeth Blair

Listen Now [6 min 19 sec] add to playlist
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97413320&ft=1&f=1007&sc=YahooNews

 




John W. Poole, NPR
Video: From Sophocles' 'Ajax'
watch now|add

 
 
“I am not alone ... I am joined by the ages of warriors and their loved ones who've gone before me.”

Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, on the Greeks' message for the modern military

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97413320&ft=1&f=1007&sc=YahooNews
 






John W. Poole, NPR
Warrior wife:
 Elizabeth Marvel as Tecmessa,
wife of the troubled soldier Ajax in Sophocles' play.

 
 
 
Additional Video

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97413320&ft=1&f=1007&sc=YahooNews




Paul Giamatti and Adam Driver in a scene from 'Philoctetes':


'I Am Wretched, Hated By The Gods'
 
add

 
 
 


John W. Poole, NPR

Left behind:

Paul Giamatti performs as the abandoned soldier Philoctetes
in Sophocles' play of the same name.







For as long as there have been wars, there have been warriors who survive — and yet become as much casualties of battle as those who died.

In fact, some think that the Greek playwright Sophocles was writing, in military dramas like Ajax and Philoctetes, about what today we call post-traumatic stress disorder — and that his plays were performed by veterans, for veterans, in part to help them heal.

Now Sophocles is finding a military audience once again. The venue? A Marriott hotel ballroom, where 300 uniformed men and women sit watching, box lunches on their laps.

Onstage, a soldier's wife weeps over the carnage caused by her husband — the crazed combat veteran Ajax, who in a rage has slaughtered dozens of farm animals, believing them to be his superior officers.

The cast, including John Adams star Paul Giamatti as Odysseus, Marine-turned-actor Adam Driver as the Chorus, and the husband-and-wife Broadway veterans Bill Camp and Elizabeth Marvel as Ajax and Tecmessa, is performing at something called the Warrior Resilience Conference.

It's a three-day gathering designed to help military personnel — from enlisted men and women to generals — deal with war's emotional toll.

Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, who runs the Pentagon division behind the conference, says that despite the graphic horrors depicted in Sophocles' tragedies, today's warriors can find comfort in them.

The plays can reassure a soldier, she says, "that I am not alone, that I am not going crazy, that I am joined by the ages of warriors and their loved ones who've gone before me, and who have done what most in society have no idea our warriors do."
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« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2009, 08:07:58 am »










After Thousands Of Years, A Play Torn From The Headlines



'The Philoctetes Project', which brought the plays to the Warrior Resilience Conference, is the brainchild of Bryan Doerries, a translator and director of Greek and Roman drama. Philoctetes is a Greek warrior who gets bitten by a poisonous snake just before the Trojan War. When his injury makes him a liability, his generals abandon him on an island where he lives by himself — in great pain — for nine years.

When the veterans-care scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center made headlines in 2007, Doerries saw parallels.

"On every front page," Doerries says, "there were pictures of modern Philocteteses, waiting for treatment, abandoned on islands, just like the character in the play. And all of a sudden it became a revelation that this play was about a wounded vet who was waiting for treatment and had to accept it from a medical establishment he no longer trusted."

That anguish and mistrust runs through Sophocles' character Ajax as well. At the end of the Trojan War, Ajax feels he's been badly mistreated by the military. He grows depressed, possibly psychotic, and attempts to kill first his generals and then himself.

"It's an amazing thing that the military is so interested in these [plays]," says Giamatti, who points out that from one perspective, both Philoctetes and Ajax can seem anti-military. The title characters, he explains, essentially rail at their superior officers: "'How could you have done this to me? I gave you my loyalty and strength and you turned me into a monster.'"
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« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2009, 08:11:01 am »









'You Have To Find Your New Normal'



Marshele Waddell, the wife of a Navy SEAL and the author of a book about the impact of war on marriage, not surprisingly identifies most with the character Tecmessa, Ajax's wife.

"I'm very familiar with what Tecmessa refers to as that thousand-yard stare," Waddell tells the crowd
as part of a talkback after the performance. "My house, like hers, has also become a slaughterhouse.
I want to underscore today that the aftermath of war is a battle that is fought on the home front."

Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Andy Brandi, a Vietnam veteran, steps to a microphone to ask Waddell how
to help military spouses cope with the way their husbands and wives change when they've been in combat. In battle, Brandi points out, soldiers form intense bonds with their comrades — a singular kind of intimacy that "extends to our fellow warriors but not to our wives or husbands."

"The rules definitely change," Waddell acknowledges, "and there's no going back to what the couple had before combat. So what I counsel ... is, 'That's no longer on the map, so don't look for it. You have to find your new normal.'"

Doerries says every time they've performed Philoctetes and Ajax for veterans, it's triggered lively — and often emotional — discussions.

And in turn, says Doerries, he and the civilian actors learn a lot about the plays from the military audience.

"It's as if Ajax and Philoctetes are written in a kind of code that we as civilians cannot understand, that the military must explain to us," he says.
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