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Positioned about 10 miles southwest of Denver, Colorado, Crimson Rocks Amphitheater is among the most beloved live performance venues on the earth. basic symphonies and the Beatles to John Denver and U2the checklist of artists who’ve performed at Crimson Rocks because it started internet hosting concert events in 1908 is nearly so long as the amphitheater’s 2.5 miles of seating.

The explanation for his excessive regard? A mixture of pure geology, man-made structure and near-perfect acoustics. However let’s begin with the rocks themselves, that are being shaped over lots of of tens of millions of years.


Benjamin Burke, an affiliate professor on the Colorado Faculty of Mines, explains that Crimson Rocks is basically an historical delta, a 300-million-year-old accumulation of sedimentary rock that when belonged to what’s referred to as the traditional Rocky Mountains. Just like the Rocky Mountains right now, these mountains have been very tall. However the forces of abrasion (wind, precipitation, and temperature) labored to convey silty, sandy, and muddy waters downstream alongside a sequence of enormous 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 west of Colorado Springs. Collectively, Crimson Rocks and the remainder of these areas type the Fountain Formation. Though the composition of the area varies, the fabric that kinds Crimson Rocks is primarily sandstone of the poorly chosen selection; it ranges from sandy grains to bigger cobblestones, says Burke.

After historical storms hurled mud and sand down the mountains, they have been slowly compressed into rock by way of the geological technique of lithification. Subsequent erosion of this rock sculpted the world the place the amphitheater stands right now. “The 2 rocks on either side of the amphitheater are a bit extra resistant [to erosion], for no matter purpose,” says Burke, referring to Ship Rock, the long-lasting redstone face to the viewers’s left, and Creation Rock to its proper. Each spectacular sloping vertical rock formations are taller than Niagara Falls.

(Credit score: Megan Mahoney/Shutterstock Images)

Offering one of the best views of Denver’s amphitheater and surrounding panorama, the highest of the Crimson Rock seating space features a bronze plaque marking the place rock from the Fountain Formation collides with 1.7 billion Precambrian rock. years previous that kinds the underside of the Denver Basin, says Burke. The oldest rocks on this space have been mined for silver and gold throughout a number of treasured metallic avalanches between 1858 and 1893, he provides.


In 1911, three many years earlier than it was opened to the general public in its present architectural type, the world-famous Scottish opera singer mary backyard carried out the primary solo live performance at Crimson Rocks. He commented that he had by no means heard extra excellent acoustic properties in any opera home on the earth.

Burke, who attends no less than one present a 12 months on the venue, admits he isn’t an audio engineer. However he presents a fundamental clarification: Each Creation Rock and Ship Rock, mixed with the stage infrastructure constructed instantly in entrance of the disc-shaped rock referred to as Stage Rock, create a super sound switch.

“The constructing and the rocks in entrance of it ship the sound out to the viewers,” he says. “The [rock] the partitions basically hold that sound in, with out there being a ceiling the place there needs to be soundproofing. So that you get lots of outward projection with out the reverberation, so to talk, of the enclosed house for [sound] to bounce.

The position of rocks within the acoustic profile might be extra on account of measurement and angle than composition, he continues. Whereas sandstone typically lacks particular acoustic powers, it might have some marginal sound-absorbing properties in comparison with tougher rocks like granite. “Generally, rock continues to be rock,” says Burke. “The truth that these partitions are there permits the sound to remain within the amphitheater however not get trapped and bounce forwards and backwards.”

The Seashore Boys carry out in live performance on July 9, 2012. (Credit score: TDC Images/Shutterstock)

There’s additionally the side of elevation. At 6,450 toes, sound really travels a bit slower than it does at sea degree, because of each air strain and temperature. Whereas that in itself just isn’t perceptible to the human ear or mind, a singer’s efficiency in rarefied air is perhaps.

“It is all the time enjoyable, as a Denver native, to see the artists come up from sea degree,” says Burke. “If the interpreter does not know what he is anticipating, that modifications the supply a bit. They find yourself breathless.”

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