Battistero di San Giovanni, Pisa, Italy: Way cooler than the sneaky leaning campanile in the background. Know why? It’s acoustically perfect. You can sing the notes of a chord and hear your own voice in harmony while the echoes fade. The guides perform this trick for you on the tour. If you’re sneaky, you can duck back inside with your chorus-geek friends and try it out before the next group comes in. Not that I would do that, or anything.
A few days later we toured St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. I won’t even post pictures, because they don’t do it justice. It’s enormous, simply massive, and chock full of beautiful things to see, but the scale is so perfect that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. And even though a.)I’m no Christian, and b.)it’s behind safety glass, the Pietà is heartbreaking.
Earlier in that same trip we saw Tintoretto’s Paradiso in the Palazzo Ducale, Venice, Italy: True story–my friend Dave, upon seeing this painting, said, “Where’s Waldo?” I’ve never laughed so hard while viewing a classical work of art.
Last stop in Italy, I was going to say Pompeii, but truthfully, I was more impressed with The Pantheon. My friend Naomi & I were on our own in Rome with a guidebook and passable French to aid us. We were also 16. So. Much. Fun! We kept following our map, but we ended up on a side street with all these market stalls and this big, grey, dirty looking building blocking the end. Just when we were about to give up and go back, we came to the end, and BOOM. Pantheon. We’d been looking at the side of it all along.
Italy made quite an impression on me, I’m aware.
Concert Hall, Mahaney Center for the Arts, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT: When I saw this room, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to perform there. And that was before I heard the acoustics. It’s not wholly the reason I applied, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a factor. I had my share of performances on that stage, some better than others, but the room never let me down. Nor did it ever cease to take my breath away.
Amazing doesn’t always mean sophisticated, of course. When I was 21, I went along with a friend when she drove cross-country for a summer job. Somewhere off I-70 in Kansas, you’ll find Prairie Dog Town. Tempting you with signs for “The World’s Largest Prairie Dog,” this roadside freakshow has a terrarium of rattlesnakes you can see poked with a stick, various mutant farm animals and a giant concrete prairie dog out back. It was amazing–and disturbing, that’s for damn sure.