Acoustic Shadow


Where sound goes to die, acoustic shadows are areas where sounds, from a certain direction and on a given day, will not penetrate; these acoustic phenomena occur either because the sound waves are absorbed, refracted or simply blown in a different direction. Relatively unnoticed in our modern, wired world, acoustic shadow played a significant role in some of the most famous battles of the American Civil War. Her research is nonobjective paintings, so she is not doing an illustration of acoustic shadows. She is creating highly conceptualized visual images that are inspired by descriptions and the concept regarding sound. Beard says, “It is fascinating and challenging to conceptualize the intangible in the silent language of visual form.”

Beard lives and works in Denton, Texas.


Remember that when the Civil War was fought, long distance communications in the United States were primitive by today’s standards. While President Lincoln received battlefield reports from his commanders via telegraph, up-to-the-minute communications, particularly between always-on-the-go battle commanders, was frequently done through couriers. Other information, like battlefront status, was discerned, according to historian Charles Ross, simply by listening:

The sound of battle was often the quickest and most efficient method by which a commander could judge the course of a battle. Troop dispositions were often made based on the relative intensity of the sounds from different locations.

Therefore, if a commander was unable to hear fighting sounds, for whatever reason, he was effectively isolated from the conflict. Knowing that acoustic shadows interfered with command decisions during several major Civil War battles, Ross opined: One might say the acoustical phenomenon determined the outcome of the Civil War.


The acoustic shadow phenomenon has always existed; it was first experienced during the battles because of the use of modern weapons. Modern weapons changed the sound of war forever. It was unbelievably loud. Thus the way sound waves carry was experienced.


People would go and picnic and watch the battle. They experienced acoustical shadows as they could see the soldiers in the front lines but they couldn’t hear them and they could see the soldiers in the back lines but they could hear them. Most of us are shocked when we hear of civilians watching a battle while they picnic.  The irony is we are still doing the same thing when we sit down in front of the TV to watch “Apocalypse Now” while we eat dinner. Once again, it appears that part of being human is our voyeuristic needs of watching war and violence.


The terrible tragedy that occurred fall 2017 in Las Vegas is another example of the acoustic shadow phenomenon. When the killer started shooting out of a window at Mandalay Bay, the victims and first responders couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from.  Once again, humans show a deeply genetically embedded desire to kill. We are in the 21st century, but our actions and our needs haven’t changed. We are the same as those who came before us in the 19th century.