01/29/07 - the echo

In today's excerpt - the echo:

"Generally speaking, echo has two coextensive histories: the mythological one and the scientific one. ...

"To illustrate the multiple resonances found in an echo, the Greeks conjured up the story of a beautiful mountain nymph. Her name was Echo and she made the mistake of helping Zeus succeed in one of his sexual conquests. Hera found out and punished Echo, making it impossible for her to say anything except the last words spoken to her. Soon after, Echo fell in love with Narcissus, whose obsession with himself caused her to pine away until only her voice remained. ...

"[O]nly empty spaces can create echoes of lasting clarity. Ironically hollowness only increases the eerie quality of otherness inherent in any echo. ... Strange then how something so uncanny ... can at the same time also contain a resilient comfort: the assurance that ... there is still something else out there, something to stake out in the face of nothingness.

"It is not by accident that choirs singing Psalms are most always recorded with ample reverb. Divinity seems defined by echo.

"Point of fact, the human ear cannot distinguish one sound wave from the same sound wave if it returns in less than 50 milliseconds. Therefore for anyone to hear a reverberation requires a certain amount of space. At 68 degrees Fahrenheit sound travels at approximately 1130 ft. per second. A reflective surface must stand at least 56 1/2 ft. away in order for a person to detect the doubling of her voice.

"Myth makes Echo the subject of longing and desire. Physics makes Echo the subject of distance and design. ... And where there is no Echo there is no description of space or love.

"There is only silence."


Mark Danielewski


House of Leaves


Pantheon Books


Copyright 2000 by Mark Z. Danielewski


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