In this half-hour documentary, I reveal how writers, poets and musicians in search of the sublime have often been captivated by the echo. I visit a thrilling echo from the industrial age as I examine attempts to bottle echoes through the centuries. I share a grisly 19th century account of a traveller who attempted to buy an echo in Italy. Centuries later, we hear inventor Charlie Watkins explain how he was inspired to pursue the echo after hearing a tape echo effect in Italy. In the 1950s, Watkins invented the Copicat, a cheap, portable tape-echo machine for bands with an unmistakeble, expansive echo of its own.
Rowan Boyson explains how Wordsworth used verse to convey a vivid impression of echoes, decades before the recording age. Miranda Stanyon discusses the uncanny properties of the echo, a feeling Sophie Heawood was aware of when she experienced an eerie telephonic echo across the Atlantic.
I also meet two twentyfirst century echo chasers: Tom Tierney, a New York sound recordist, and Chris Warren, aka The Echo Thief. Chris has created his own variant of convolution reverb – a technique that enables sound engineers to capture a location’s echoey fingerprint then transplant it onto any other sound.
Even before the electric age, musicians incorporated echoes in music to create a sense of someting vast and otherwordly. Echoes can imbue music with a sense of the sublime. This documentary is packed with gorgeous examples of music relishing the echo – from Monteverdi and Pauline Oliveros to Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. A highlight is a live extemporisation by Aniruddha Das and Dubmorphology – a London-based experimental dub collective who set up their kit for us on the kitchen table then push the echo to the edge of chaos.