Peter Kearns has some entrepreneurial ideas about the acoustical properties of horse heads.
FOR MANY YEARS now, horse skulls have been found buried beneath medieval and early clay floors, with one theory proposing the bone structure resonance improved room/floor acoustics for dancing or music. Another theory suggests it was done out of pure superstition. I tender the alternative idea that the bones were interred south of floor due to the improved acoustics being the superstition itself, and woe betide all inside should a new building not demonstrate positive acoustic characteristics. They must’ve cared about sound back then. What happened?
This is a technique that could’ve been to our benefit in the preparatory stages of Auckland’s Vector Arena or Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena, considering the bad rap both venues have had re their acoustics. The Christchurch venue was built in 1998 specifically to house the 1999 Netball World Cup. Not a horse’s head in sight, folks. And surprisingly the place is still standing. Hell, for the 1906 International Exhibition in Christchurch’s Hagley Park, they even spent close to $200,000 constructing a stunning multi-turreted edifice that covered over 14 acres of an over-all 400 utilised, extended the railway line through the park just to service the event, and then tore it all down nine months later. What a waste. Imagine the potential future usage possibilities.
I don’t know how suitable the Horncastle Arena is for sport and I really don’t care, which is the same level of care that was taken re the sound acoustics when it was built. At the time we were given another reason for its existence as providing larger audience capacity to the tune of 8000 or more. In the property’s earlier incarnation as the outdoor venue Addington Showgrounds, it held in excess of 25,000 people and it sounded fine. Of course, Christchurch’s acoustically superior venue was always the Town Hall, and judging by the way things are looking, might be again. I wouldn’t be surprised if they found a horse skull under that building.
On a purely domestic acoustic level, wouldn’t it make more sense to leave the horse head inside so it might resonate more readily? Having more than one would make sense. The equine industry could really make a sideline out of this. Horse skull sales could really go through the roof (ironically) and their retail values could be based in breeding – those skulls with a more spherical and thus resonant cavity, coupled perhaps in more expensive editions with tightened mandible for more accentuated bone conduction, could command higher prices. That way if the music isn’t doin’ it for you, you’d still have something interesting to look at. If it’s not a melodious piece, at least you’d have a conversation piece, provided of course that there’s someone else there to talk to (but not necessarily). Better still, in some cases (I’d say 95 percent) you could do the reverse and have the skull inside and bury the music under the house instead. This could save time, which is at much more of a premium now than it was in the Middle Ages.
So let’s move on. With all this talk of horses, I think some country music is appropriate. Canadian Daniel Romano’s brand of it (no pun intended) has been described as country music for people who don’t like new country music. I must admit, to find these few I had to wade through a plethora of auto-tuned pop-country songs with big Fall Out Boy-sounding choruses and album covers that looked like shampoo commercials. But it was worth it for Romano’s linked avant-country cycle punctuated by restless bass lines, surprise key changes and a lyrical bent that can only be described as half joking, half cynical and half ironic.
Equally pleasing, though perhaps a little less adventurous is Ashley Monroe’s beautiful Vince Gill-produced The Blade, here represented by the strident ‘Bombshell’. To follow, Tony Furtado’s ‘Dying Lion’ seemed topical but uninteresting compared to the more appropriate ‘Low Road’. Perhaps not as crafted as the others here, the song’s saving grace is its polished production and accomplished musicianship.
Sounding as fresh as country song-writing can and towering over the other material on Bri Bagwell’s When A Heart Breaks is ‘Dear John Deere’. “Dear John Deere, You know we share a man”. Ha! They’re still pumping out great lines in Nashville. Hey, maybe you’ll use your John Deere tractor to transport all those horse skulls into the house. Maybe they could have a line in heads with the mane left attached, and give away some of that shampoo so you can keep them clean. PETER KEARNS