The Past Has Ears (PHE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Electronics

Abstract

When we think about great architectural achievements in European history, such as ancient amphitheatres or gothic cathedrals, their importance is strongly tied to their acoustic environment. The acoustics of a heritage site is an intangible consequence of the space's tangible construction and furnishings. It is ephemeral, while also a concrete result of the physical nature of the environment. Through the "Past Has Ears" project (the PHE project), we will explore how via measurements, research, and virtual reconstructions the acoustics of heritage spaces can be documented, reconstructed, and experienced for spaces both existing and in various altered states.

Inspired by the project's namesake (Phe', for the constellation Phoenix), and the relatively recent fires at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (2019) and Teatro La Fenice opera hall (1996, also meaning Phoenix), the PHE project focuses on the preservation, conservation, and reconstruction of heritage sites, bringing them back from the ashes for use by researchers, stake holders, cultural institutions, and the general public.

Comprising research teams with experience in acoustic reconstructions and historical research, paired with national heritage monuments of acoustic importance, the consortium will develop a joint methodology for addressing relevant archaeological acoustics issues across Europe with historians of different disciplines. Specialists in tangible/intangible cultural heritage legal issues ensure the viability and longevity of the methodology guidelines. The consortium will prototype next generation exploration tools for presenting digital acoustic reconstructions to scientists and museum visitors alike. Results will be evaluated with associated test heritage sites, created in partnership with stakeholders and experienced content producers. Presentation methods provide first-person in-situ or off- site explorations, with the ability to experience various historical periods. For deteriorated sites, this approach provides access to situations impossible to experience on-site. Additional uses include participative experiences, employing real-time reconstructions for on-site concerts and other events experienced in the heritage acoustics.
 
Description The project is exploring acoustics as an example of intangible heritage through a partnership between three Universities one from the UK, one from France and one from Italy. Each brings with them a collaboration with a key partner who are responsible for a particular cultural or historic site. Sorbonne Université in Paris, France, is the lead partner, working with Direction régionale des affaires culturelles d'Île-de-France (Notre Dame), Paris, France. The University of Parma, Italy, is working with Parco Archeologico di Tindari (Tindari Theatre), Tindari, Italy, and the University of York in the UK is working with the Houses of Parliament, London, UK. All are exploring the history of these sites, and considering aspects of their preservation, through a consideration of sound and the acoustics of these places. Specific to the UK team, is an investigation into the acoustic characteristics of the House of Commons, c. 1820-1834, before it was destroyed by fire and became the place we know and see today. The aim has been to build a 3D model of this historic site, based on available evidence, and from this develop a virtual acoustic construction, explore its various properties in comparison with other exemplars, and attempt to understand the experience of listening to debates within this chamber from various perspectives. Through this research we have:

(1) Studied the acoustic and architectural characteristics of the Historic House of Commons site which has particular historical importance and interest.
(2) Revealed information about the intangible aspects of the use of this site, and those studied alongside as a means of calibrating and comparing our model - this includes the acoustic reconstruction of the Historic House of Commons Chamber, acoustic measurements from the current House of Commons Chamber as well as the acoustic study of other spaces that have been used as Parliamentary spaces during other periods of English history.
(3) Developed an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the acoustics of historic sites, especially in this case for a site that no longer exists, through a collaboration with experts in history, history of art, architecture as well as acoustics. This combined information has provided a more complete view of the site as it was c. 1820-1834.
(4) Preserved the sound of this historic site, and those we have measured to support this study, for future generations, for historic, educational and cultural purposes.
(5) Allowed the researchers involved, and through open access publishing and data sharing, any interested individual to experience the sound of this heritage site as it was c. 1820-1834 through the reconstruction and auralistion of debates contemporary to this period.
(6) Revealed information about the lived experience of women in British politics in 19th Century. By considering the perspective and position of where some women were able to gather in the ventilation space above the House of Commons Chamber to listen in to Parliamentary debates at a time when women were otherwise excluded from Parliament, we now have more complete information about what they would have perceived aurally from their (hidden) vantage point, and how this has an impact on our history.
Exploitation Route Too early to say (the award is still active).
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://pasthasears.dalembert.upmc.fr/doku.php/phe
 
Title House of Commons - Acoustic Reconstruction 1820-34 
Description The link contains the data from the two software used for the acoustic simulation of the House of Commons (CATT-Acoustic and ODEON), as well as the impulse responses and the auralization results that had been generated from the final versions of the model. Additionally, there are the impulse responses and auralization results of the in-situ measurements of five spaces that have been analysed and used for this research. It is worth to mention that the five spaces were measured from different teams from the Audiolab, University of York and some of the initial measurements can be found on OPENAir (also being included as outcome for this award under 'research dataset, database & models" 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2023 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The acoustic results and the data of the models are linked with the following publication: https://www.mdpi.com/2624-599X/5/1/12 making the outcomes available for everyone to use and investigate further. 
URL https://zenodo.org/record/7560885#.ZBCO1uzP1E4
 
Title Open Acoustic Impulse Response Library (OpenAIR) 
Description A collection of modelled and measured acoustic data from locations across the world, with data available in a variety of spatial audio formats. Also supported with a set of online anechoic recordings and acoustic analysis tools. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2010 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This database has formed part of a number of further AHRC projects: WEb Audio Virtual Environment Rendering (WEAVER): Online Virtual Acoustics for Sonic Art, Digital Heritage, and Broadcast (AH/N00356X/1) Listening to the Commons: The Sounds of Debate and the Experience of Women in Parliament c. 1800 (AH/P012094/1) It has been licensed to three audio software companies under a Creative Commons License and included in their commercial releases: Ableton Live 9 Digital Audio Workstation Software Presonus Studio One Digital Audio Workstation Software Reason Studios Reason Digital Audio Workstation software It was further licensed to the following under a Creative Commons License to support their own R&D: iZotope Software it has been deployed across a series of video racing games by UK developer Codemasters. Originally released in 2014 for Microsoft Windows, Sony Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms, and since ported to Linux, Mac OS X (2015), iOS (2017), Nintendo Switch and Android (2019). Steamspy suggests that there are 500,000-1,000,000 users across the main gaming platforms, with the iOS platform reporting more than 100,000 paid users within 12 months of release. The research contribution is acknowledged in the game's credits under Sponsors and Outsource Companies. The research has been further used in DiRT Rally (2016), with more than 800,000 sales, DiRT Rally 2 (2019), with more than 1,000,000 users, and the forthcoming Dirt 5. 
URL http://www.openairlib.net/
 
Description Project Partnership: House of Commons, Westminster 
Organisation Parliament of UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The AHRC Past Has Ears project is a collaborative research project including researchers from a wide range of disciplines focusing on room acoustics as an important aspect of cultural heritage. Funding has been provided by the EU JPI Cultural Heritage project PHE (20-JPIC-0002-FS), devolved to AHRC in the UK. The Houses of Parliament are the UK cultural partner on the project, based on a longer term collaboration around St Stephen's Chapel in the Palace of Westminster and the history of the House of Commons. In this partnership we are the lead UK research organisation working on the intangible heritage of the acoustics of the Historic House of Commons chamber.
Collaborator Contribution Access to archives, expertise, knowledge, staff time, access to space and facilities.
Impact Papers, engagement activities and data, reported in relevant sections.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Project Partnership: Sorbonne Université, Paris, France 
Organisation Sorbonne Universit├ęs
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The AHRC Past Has Ears project is a collaborative research project including researchers from a wide range of disciplines focusing on room acoustics as an important aspect of cultural heritage. Funding has been provided by the EU JPI Cultural Heritage project PHE (20-JPIC-0002-FS), devolved to AHRC in the UK. Sorbonne University are the lead institution on the project.
Collaborator Contribution Project management, research management and collaboration on topics relevant to all partners on the project.
Impact Papers, engagement activities and data, reported in relevant sections.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Project Partnership: University of Parma, Italy 
Organisation University of Parma
Country Italy 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The AHRC Past Has Ears project is a collaborative research project including researchers from a wide range of disciplines focusing on room acoustics as an important aspect of cultural heritage. Funding has been provided by the EU JPI Cultural Heritage project PHE (20-JPIC-0002-FS), devolved to AHRC in the UK. The University of Parma are the lead Italian institution on the project.
Collaborator Contribution Project management, research management and collaboration on topics relevant to all partners on the project.
Impact Papers, engagement activities and data, reported in relevant sections.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Invited Presentation: Horror Vacui - Balancing evidence and imagination during the virtual reconstruction of St Stephen's Chapel, Palace of Westminster (Symposium on Scholarly Reconstruction, Newcastle University) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Granted unprecedented access to the modern House of Commons, this presentation summarises outcomes from a project in partnership with MPs and parliamentary staff to recreate historic debates and assess the acoustics of the current Commons chamber in order to model its early modern predecessor. The final outputs included a series of soundscapes that featured prominently in the Voice and Vote exhibition in Westminster Hall in 2018. During the preparation of these exhibition materials the team, made up of historians, archaeologists and acousticians, had to additionally negotiate between following a rigorous methodology and allowing creative practise to finalise these outputs appropriate for the setting and intended audience. Presented 20th July 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.facebook.com/events/newcastle-university/symposium-on-scholarly-reconstruction/296137502...
 
Description Invited Presentation: The soundscapes of Parliament in early modern England (Soundscapes in the Early Modern World Conference) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Granted unprecedented access to the modern House of Commons, this presentation summarises outcomes from a project in partnership with MPs and parliamentary staff to recreate historic debates and assess the acoustics of the current Commons chamber in order to model its early modern predecessor. The final outputs included a series of soundscapes that featured prominently in the Voice and Vote exhibition in Westminster Hall in 2018. During the preparation of these exhibition materials the team, made up of historians, archaeologists and acousticians, had to additionally negotiate between following a rigorous methodology and allowing creative practise to finalise these outputs appropriate for the setting and intended audience. 6th July 2021
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://emsoundscapes.co.uk/
 
Description Invited Presentation: Wired for Sound: Engineering future audio experiences and new sound worlds through creative digital technology (Fulford School, York) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact An engineering careers focused invited presentation for a local school focused on aspects of AudioLab and XR Stories research, 9th July 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description Invited Presentation: Wired for Sound: Engineering future audio experiences and new sound worlds through creative digital technology (Fulford School, York) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact An engineering careers focused invited presentation for a local school focused on aspects of AudioLab and XR Stories research, 9th July 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Invited talk at the EuropeanaTech: 'Acoustics of Parliamentary Spaces in the UK: House of Commons Chamber in the 1820s' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a webinar organised by EuropeanaTech where four speakers (including me) were invited to discuss the Acoustics in cultural heritage. There was a variety of different methodologies for recording and/or reconstructing the acoustics of heritage sites (across Europe). There were several questions from the participants (about 20 total) and discussions among the speakers too. This was a very interesting and useful event to discuss our work and also to see relevant work across countries/institutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://pro.europeana.eu/event/europeanatech-presents-acoustics-in-cultural-heritage
 
Description Talk at the Institute of Acoustics (Midlands Branch): An Acoustic Reconstruction of the House of Commons c.1820-1834 (University of Derby) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This talk was organised by the Institute of Acoustics (Midlands Branch) at the University of Derby. The talk was in person but also available via Zoom for everyone to attend. Overall, there were 23 attendees in the theatre, from which there were academic members of staff, professional practitioners from industry such as ARUP and AECOM, and postgraduate students from the acoustics course at the University. There were 22 attendees via Zoom as well. All attendees received a CPD certificate at the end of this one-hour talk.

The aim was to discuss our outcomes for the paper published here https://www.mdpi.com/journal/acoustics/special_issues/Acoustics_Soundscapes_Intangible_Heritage
spread the word about this publication and discuss potential extensions for this project.

Several questions were discussed at the end of the presentation, regarding the methodology, the problem, the solutions, the terminology that had been used as well as information about the future plans of this project.

After the event, we received several congratulatory emails and comments from professional practitioners about the interesting topic and the well-presented talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://www.ioa.org.uk/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=794