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The Superb Sound At Pink Rocks Is 300 Million Years In The Making

Situated about 10 miles southwest of Denver, Colorado, the Pink Rocks Amphitheatre is without doubt one of the most beloved live performance venues on this planet. From classical symphonies and the Beatles to John Denver and U2, the checklist of performers who’ve performed Pink Rocks because it started internet hosting concert events in 1908 is almost so long as the amphitheater’s 2.5 miles of seating.

The rationale for its excessive regard? A mixture of naturally occurring geology, man-made structure and almost excellent acoustics. However let’s begin with the rocks themselves, that are a whole bunch of tens of millions of years within the making.

The Geology

Benjamin Burke, an affiliate professor on the Colorado Faculty of Mines, explains that Pink Rocks is actually an historic delta — a 300 million-year-old accumulation of sedimentary rock that after belonged to what’s often known as the ancestral Rockies. Like the present Rockies, these mountains have been very tall. However the forces of abrasion (wind, precipitation and temperature) labored to convey silty, sandy, muddy waters downstream alongside a collection of huge rivers.

These supplies created quite a few deltas within the space, together with the Flatirons area west of Boulder, Roxborough State Park close to Littleton, and the Backyard of the Gods to the west of Colorado Springs. Collectively, Pink Rocks and the remainder of these areas type the Fountain Formation. Although the composition of the area varies, the stuff that types Pink Rocks is especially sandstone of the poorly sorted selection; it ranges from sandy grains to bigger cobbles, Burke says.

After historic storms despatched mud and sand streaming down the mountains, they slowly compressed into rock by means of the geologic technique of lithification. Subsequent erosion of this rock carved out the realm the place the amphitheater sits in the present day. “The 2 rocks on both facet of the amphitheater are a bit extra resistant [to erosion], for no matter cause,” says Burke, referring to Ship Rock — the long-lasting pink stone face to the viewers’s left — and Creation Rock to its proper. Each beautiful, tilted vertical rock formations are taller than Niagara Falls.

(Credit score: Megan Mahoney Images/Shutterstock)

The highest of Pink Rock’s seating space, which gives the amphitheater’s greatest views of Denver and the encircling panorama, features a bronze plaque marking the spot the place Fountain Formation rock collides with the 1.7 billion-year-old, Precambrian rock that types the underside of the Denver Basin, Burke says. The older rocks on this space have been mined for silver and gold throughout varied valuable steel rushes between about 1858 and 1893, he provides.

The Sound

In 1911, three many years earlier than it opened to the general public in its current architectural type, world-famous Scottish opera singer Mary Backyard carried out the primary solo live performance at Pink Rocks. She remarked that she’d by no means heard extra excellent acoustic properties at any opera home on this planet.

Burke, who attends a minimum of one present a yr on the venue, admits that he isn’t an audio engineer. However he affords a fundamental clarification: Each Creation Rock and Ship Rock, mixed with the stage infrastructure constructed straight in entrance of the disc-shaped rock often known as Stage Rock, create an excellent switch of sound.

“The constructing and the rocks earlier than it actually ship the sound outwards to the viewers,” he says. “The [rock] partitions primarily preserve that sound in, with out there being a roof the place there’d need to be sound deadening. So, you get quite a lot of projection outwards with out the reverb, if you’ll, of the enclosed house for [sound] to bounce round in.”

The function of the rocks within the acoustic profile is probably going owed extra to dimension and angle than composition, he continues. Whereas sandstone usually lacks any particular acoustic powers, it’s potential it might need some marginal sound-absorbing properties in comparison with more durable rock like granite. “On the entire, rock continues to be rock,” Burke says. “The very fact these partitions are there permits for the sound to remain within the amphitheater however not get trapped and bounce backwards and forwards.”

The Seashore Boys carry out in live performance on July 09, 2012. (Credit score: TDC Images/Shutterstock)

There’s additionally the elevation facet. At 6,450 toes, sound really travels barely slower than at sea stage, due to each air strain and temperature. Whereas that in itself shouldn’t be noticeable to the human ear or mind, a singer’s efficiency in thinner air could be.

“It’s at all times enjoyable, as a Denver native, to see performers come up from sea stage,” Burke says. “If the performer doesn’t know what they’re in for, that does considerably change the supply a bit of bit. They find yourself being a bit breathless.”

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