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.
 
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 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 2021