Welcome to the Acoustics and Music of British Music Prehistory Research Cluster website. Here you will find information about a research network of people interested in Archaeoacoustics, the relationships of archaeology, acoustics, music and sound. The site contains information on meetings and conferences, researchers in this field, introductions to basic concepts in the field, discussions of research questions and methodology and a bibliography.

Research Cluster for the Investigation of Acoustic and Musical Elements of Prehistoric Archaeological Sites in Britain is funded by:

Science and Heritage Programme Network

AHRC logo colour

EPSRC logo colour

Rupert Till’s research on the acoustics of Stonehenge continues to be used by other researchers and media channels. Most recently Dr. Till was interviewed by the BBC television programme the sky at night as they presented the show from Stonehenge on the summer solstice. As well as discussing sound at the sight, the programme made extensive use of digital models of Stonehenge generated as a byproduct of his research. Working with staff from art and design, computing and engineering, and most recently with researcher John Fillwalk at Ball University in the US he has created increasingly accurate digital models of the site in order to do more accurate acoustic modelling. Dr. Fillwalk’s model aims to allow the sun and moon positions to be accurately modelled.

As well as being used by the sky at night, This research has been used by the History Channel, BBC radio 4, the New Scientist, the iPad/iPhone app ‘Stonehenge Experience’, and it has featured on Apple’s recent worldwide advertising campaign.

The sky at night can be seen at 7.30pm on bbc 4 on Thursday 11 July on UK television.

Clips featuring dr. Till and his work can be seen at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01ccpsp

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01ccn5f

These clips may not be available outside the uk, and we will try to put clips on this website soon.
Dr. Till is currently planning a research trip to northern Spain to explore the relationships between cave paintings and acoustics, with paintings that are up to 40,000 years old. He as also just started work on the European music archaeology project, an EU culture programme funded 5 year project.

Dr. Rupert Tills work with the European Music Archaeology Project has been funded through the EU Culture Programme receiving a 5 year €2 million grant, with about 8 partners from different countries involved. Dr Till says: ‘I will be setting up a music archaeology record label, and recording perhaps Greek instruments in a temple, Roman instruments at Pompeii’s theatre or prehistoric instruments in chamber tombs. I will also be creating multimedia exhibits for a touring exhibition, which will travel across Europe, for example to Rome, Berlin, France, Portugal, Spain etc. EMAP will develop a free-to-enter multimedia touring exhibition and accompanying programme of workshops and performances which will visit ten venues in eight countries between May 2015 and November 2016. The exhibition covers the origins and evolution of European music from Prehistory to still-surviving music traditions and will be supported by a website, TV documentary, recordings and other activities.

The programme will create accurate reconstructions and working models of ancient instruments computer models of selected archaeological sites, their acoustics and soundscapes, outreach media such as books, CDs and videos, workshops and performances and a multimedia exhibition. The presentation will be designed to appeal to the general public, using the latest presentational techniques and the accompanying support materials will be presented at three different levels: adult, school-age and pre-school. The adult material will be designed to bring together generations, empowering older citizens help the younger ones to explore the musical experiences of their parents’ and grandparents’ generation and understand their experiences of shared European culture.

A Trust will be set up to continue the work of the project into the future. It will establish a lasting flagship for ancient European music culture and the development of a supra-national sense of citizenship through a deeper awareness of Europe’s interconnected past, achieved through the power of sound, even after the end of the funded project.’

CALL FOR PAPERS
Conference 19-22 February 2014 in MALTA
ARCHAEOACOUSTICS: The Archaeology of Sound
 a multidisciplinary look at early sonic/aural awareness and lithic sound behavior, toward a better understanding of human and music development.
Archaeology has often been focused on the visual and on physical objects, although the past was of course not silent. Since many cultures explored through archaeology were focused on the oral and therefore the aural, it is becoming increasingly recognized that studying the sonic nature of parts of archaeology can enhance our understanding.
 
The intent of this conference is to explore the importance of sound in antiquity, sharing focused expertise from a variety of backgrounds in order to provide a forum for expanding previous conceptions and introducing new methodologies.  We are particularly interested in the role acoustic behavior may have had in the development and design of important architecture and ritual spaces throughout the ancient world.
All presentations will be in English.  Performance proposals will also be considered.
Submission of abstracts for a 20-minute presentation and proposals for posters/demos on any topic related to the theme will be open until 01 September 2013.    Abstracts should be 300 words or less plus title and author details.  Authors of papers accepted for presentation by the academic committee will be notified by 15 September 2013.  Final papers are required by 15 January 2014.

Submissions should be made to: Conference2014@OTSF.org

Organized by The University of Malta and The OTS Foundation
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Stonehenge is famously aligned to the sunrise on the mid-summer solstice. However there is more archaeological evidence that in prehistoric Britain, people gathered at Stonehenge at sunset to celebrate the shortest day of the year, after which everything gets lighter and warmer, on the winter solstice. People often think of the winter solstice as being 21st December, however it varies between the 20th and the 23rd depending on the motion of the Earth and whether it is a leap year or not. This year English heritage will provide open access to Stonehenge on the 22nd December. The trouble is, it is often not possible to watch the sun setting from inside the stones for a number of reasons. It is often cloudy, and there are often thousands of people all trying to get inside the stone circle at sunset. Also of course, half the stones at Stonehenge are missing or fallen, compared to the prehistoric version of the site. Add to this parking problems, and the cold of the exposed countryside, and one might wonder if there were a warmer way to experience the solstice at Stonehenge.

Interactive iphone app developers Ribui, working with Researchers at the University of Huddersfield, have come up with an intriguing alternative. They have produced an iphone app that you can download, that includes models of Stonehenge. A computer model of the site has been created which allows you to see what the site would have looked like in prehistory. Advanced digital modelling has been used to provide an accurate reconstruction, an interpretation of what it may have been like to be at Stonehenge in prehistory. If you are actually at Stonehenge, the app uses Augmented Reality (AR) to work out where you are standing, and when you hold up your phone, it shows you what the site would have looked like, from your exact position, but as if you were there thousands of years ago.

You can navigate interactively around the site, and explore it at will, without seeing fences or paths, allowing the user to fly over the top of the site, or zoom towards it. You can also see how the site developed over the years, how different arrangements of the stones were set up, drawing on the latest archaeological research. You can even stand virtually in the middle of the stones, and as you move your phone around, you can look around, with no other people present, and with all the stones intact and upright. At the same time you can put headphones in your ears, and hear how the echoes from the stone surfaces would have affected your voice.

The computer model was originally created by project leader Dr. Rupert Till at the University of Huddersfield, in order to carry out acoustic analysis of the site, using architectural software. However, as the model produced by Dr. Ertu Unver and Andrew Taylor looked very accurate, the project decided to create multimedia files that reconstructed Stonehenge virtually. Commercial company Ribui, approached the University to develop the model into an interactive iphone app, and the final result is now released to the public.

Smartphone apps offer a way to explore heritage sites like Stonehenge from anywhere, and also provide information to visitors to the site, as they are walking around it. This app also features a model of the wooden circle at nearby Woodhenge, as well as information on other sites related to Stonehenge, like Durrington Walls, the Cursus and the so-called Bluestonehenge. It also allows one to dig out other archaeological finds on your iphone, and see and hear information about the archaeology of the whole surrounding landscape.

Project leader at the University of Huddersfield Dr. Rupert Till told us, ‘the interaction of Science and Heritage, and the use of digital interactive tools in this way, allows someone anywhere in the world to connect with the thousands of years old tradition of people traveling to Stonehenge, especially on the winter solstice. People have always gone to Stonehenge to connect with the ancestors, to connect with the past, but also to look forward on the shortest day to a sunnier future. They want to celebrate the return of the Sun, the ultimate source of power and light for our world, as we know we are at the darkest point of the year, but that things will look a little brighter from now on. It’s a place of ritual and spirituality, and we hope that this app will help people understand and appreciate Stonehenge in a different way, offering a window into the past, as well as an experience that can bring optimism for the future.’

The Stonehenge Experience app is available on the Apple App Store

http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/stonehenge-experience/id486455671?mt=8&uo=4

More At http://www.stonehengeexperience.com/indexnorm.php

Daily Mail article

Hearing the Past through our ancestors’ ears

BBC Radio 4,

11 am, Monday September 12th, 2011. 

Imagine being able to eavesdrop on the sound of a ritual at Stonehenge four thousand years ago, or hear singing in the original Coventry Cathedral before it was bombed in 1940.

Broadcaster and Physicist, Professor Jim Al-Khalili investigates how latest research in acoustics is helping us to recreate authentic sounds of the past. It is changing the way we study history and experience tourist attractions. It is also helping us to improve the acoustic design of future buildings.

Jim discovers how architects of modern concert venues are learning lessons from the layout of Stonehenge. He also finds out how acoustic design goes far beyond just making our buildings sound good, in some cases it can save lives.

The research is bringing together a diverse group of scientists, engineers, sound archivists, museum curators and sound artists.

The initial project was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). This included the Acoustics and Music of British Prehistory Research Network described at http://AMBPNetwork.wordpress.com

‘Hearing the Past’ will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 11 am on Monday September 12th. The programme will also be available via the Radio 4 website (bbc.co.uk/radio4). The programme has also been selected as BBC Radio 4’s Documentary of the Week.

The Producer of the programme is Jane Reck.

Notes for Editors:

Contributors to the programme:

Dr Rupert Till, from the University of Huddersfield. Rupert works in the area of ‘archaeo-acoustics’, which concentrates on the sound of a site and how it would have been used in the past. He describes how he has been able to recreate the sound of a ritual at Stonehenge four thousand years ago. He also explains how the site’s acoustics are inspiring the design of modern outdoor concert venues.

Dr Damian Murphy, from the University of York. He is involved in acoustically recreating the sound of Coventry Cathedral before it was bombed in 1940.

Joe Savage, a curator at the National Railway Museum in York.  Joe is interested in the use of acoustics in a museum or heritage setting. The NRM is currently re-developing its station hall area and wants to make use of latest research into acoustics. They are planning to show visitors how a railway station operates twenty four hours a day and how that working pattern has changed over time.

Sebastien Jouan, an acoustic designer. Sebastien works for Arup, a global firm of designers, engineers, planners and building consultants. He explains how studying the acoustics of sites such as Stonehenge and pre-1940 Coventry Cathedral can help us design better sounding buildings from concert halls and airport terminals to schools, hospital operating theatres, homes and offices. Sebastien will also demonstrate, through recorded sounds how improving acoustics in public places can also save lives in emergency situations.

Richard Ranft, Head of the Sound Archive at the British Library in London. This is an invaluable source of recordings for museums and historic sites. Richard is also keen to encourage people to record sounds of the world around them now before we lose them forever.

Sound Artists Louise K. Wilson (based at the University of Huddersfield) and David Chapman. Their work has centred on the Falkland estate in Fife, sourcing and collecting historic sounds associated with this former royal hunting park

There is a concert on Friday 27th May in Edinburgh featuring multimedia, music, and live performances that explore the relationships between music and prehistory.

Full details at: http://palaeophonics.co.uk/

and http://palaeophonics.co.uk/stonehenge-ritual-sound/

This will includes a short digital film by Rupert Till, Andrew Taylor and Ertu Unver which features high quality renderings of a 3D model of Stonehenge, as it may have looked in prehistory. It also includes a soundtrack that recreates the sound of the space as one approaches it. The model is placed on accurate LIDAR laser scan ground data.

TAG

Artefact to Auditorium: aural agendas in the archaeology of prehistoric sound

Organised by

Paul Keene, Farès Moussa, Rupert Till and Simon Wyatt

(Partly supported by the AHRC ‘Beyond Text’ program) *

Theoretical Archaeology Group

32nd Annual Conference

University of Bristol

17th-19th December 2010

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/archanth/tag/index.html

Call for Abstracts

The archaeology of prehistoric music has made a useful contribution to our understanding of prehistoric society.  But with few surviving musical artefacts or depictions and no manuscripts, the subject has been vulnerable to ‘open’ interpretations and cross-cultural analogies or stereotypes by archaeologists and researchers such as (palaeo-) musicologists or (palaeo-) psychologists and composers or performers who have been inspired by prehistory.  More creative and humanistic musical interpretations nevertheless have the power to inspire and unite people in contemporary society, whilst new scientific methods of reconstruction, such as archaeo-acoustics, can enlighten us about musical heritage and daily life in prehistoric society.

This session will explore the often complementary relationship between the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of prehistoric sound and music.  It will question why prehistoric music reconstructions and compositions inspired by prehistory are represented in the manner and style we hear today.  What has led to the representation of prehistoric music; how do we understand the acoustic properties, tone and sound aesthetics of prehistoric instruments and performance spaces; how might we approach understanding the performative in prehistoric societies?; and why are particular forms of music and sound represented in classical and contemporary composition and performance rather than others?  In short, what are the knowledge sources, influences and constraints behind the music that is popularised as a reflection of prehistoric sound organisation and wider prehistoric society?

Papers and projects are invited which include one or more of the following:

  1. Provide a musical representation and an understanding of past soundscapes based on Archaeo-acoustic work, for example investigating or reconstructing the soundfields of archaeological sites;
  2. Examine the representations and the actual sounds available in different periods based on reconstructed models of excavated musical instruments;
  3. Provide a critical consideration of archaeologically inspired musical, compositional and performance structures or themes with a view to understanding how particular sounds, music traditions and performance practises are (or not) popularly associated with the distant past;
  4. Can demonstrate, intercept, modify, redefine or challenge the resulting insights through their own proposed compositional and/or multimedia practise and performance.  This may consider the importance of ethnomusicology’s notion of “Bimusicality” for a true reflection of musical performance;
  5. Interrogate how their methods and approaches may make a direct contribution to a contemporary audience’s reception, not only within an academic discursive forum, but also to a wider public, maybe with consideration of cognitive/experiential or political themes;
  6. Provide demonstrations of model instruments, perfomative practises or inspired performances, which may be included as a part of the session or informal sessions during breaks.

*AHRC Beyond Text funding opportunities

Funds are available to potential contributors who are interested in presenting a paper at the Bristol Session of TAG as a theoretical basis for a follow-up public performance event and workshop in Edinburgh in April/May 2011.  Projects must involve at least one PhD candidate and must particularly address points 2-3 for the TAG session paper and points 4-5 for the performance event in Edinburgh. Travel and accommodation costs to Bristol and Edinburgh for up to two collaborators and honorariums for up to three performers per project may be available for a total of up to five projects.

To submit a proposal, send an abstract of 2-300 words as a .doc file attachment to Simon Wyatt: Simon.Wyatt@bristol.ac.uk by 20th September 2010.

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