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Acoustic anomaly: Marion band room harbors 'the weird spot'

Staff writer

Freshman Grant Leffler didn’t know what to expect as he shuffled toward the center of Marion High School’s band room to fish for what peers call “the weird spot.”

He was told the so-called weirdness can’t be seen, touched, smelt or felt — as an acoustic anomaly, it can only be heard.

Stopping near where friends claimed the world sounded weird, Grant still didn’t hear it.

He was told to move. He leaned back and forth, then back again, stopped and cocked his head to the side as his eyes grew bigger and his face flourished into a toothy grin.

“Weird,” he said Thursday during seminar. “That’s spooky. I’m getting out of here.”

The anomaly probably isn’t a interdimensional portal or anything else an imaginative teen might be nervous about, but when you’re in it, you know.

In its aura, normal room sounds take on an uncanny echo when you speak, sing, or just listen to other sounds. The effect gives the small space an invisible bubble-like quality.

“What god created this,” junior John Lind joked while voicing monotone “ahs” that escalated into mock shrieks as he maneuvered in and out of the anomaly.

Shifting a few inches in any direction removes one from its influence and returns room sounds to normal intonations.

If you don’t already know about it, the abrupt change in acoustics can be surprising. It was for band director Chris Barlow.

“I was in my first year up on my podium practicing a song with the kids and I took a step forward into it and was like ‘Whoa! What was that?” he said. “I had to stop the song and ask the kids what happened.”

Barlow’s reaction garnered a cacophony of laughter, after which students told him he had found “the weird spot” in the room near where he conducts.

“The acoustics are just off inside of it,” Barlow said. “I don’t know why it happens.”

He thought the aural glitch might occur because of the way sound bounces off the ceiling at the room’s center.

Former band director Mike Connell said the sonic abnormality was there when he started teaching in 1982. He described it as having a “hollow non resonant quality.”

“I believe the anomaly was created by the physics in the room,” he said. “It might be equal distance from all corners.”

Connell said the room was originally a gymnasium, so it probably wasn’t designed with music in mind.

Last modified Dec. 11, 2014

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