Goals

COVID19 update:

 Given travel and access restrictions in the foreseeable future,we will reorder primary objectives. Specifically, we will focus on three initial goals that can get underway despite restricted mobility. These include:

1.    Initial studies to establish and validate metrics, and arrive at optimal tools for field work.

2.     Creating initial speculative virtual acoustic simulations.

3.     Designing perception experiments to run in virtual acoustic environments. 

A subset of our group (Jonathan Abel, Eoin Callery, Elliot Kermit Canfield Dafilou and I) met to chart an initial plan of action regarding the first goal. We will take measurements in controlled spaces, specifically a racquetball court  (to establish metrics for enclosed acoustic spaces), and a hurling practice court (to gather metrics in an open space). In addition to establishing best practices for recording impulse responses and photogrammetry, we hope to produce at least one conference paper.

As we gather the results from these studies we will, use architectural design and acoustic analysis software (specifically SketchUp and Odeon) to simulate virtual acoustic spaces with geometries and measurements identical to the racquetball and curling courts. If all goes well, our acoustics simulations of the design models should closely approximate the virtual acoustics of the practice courts, which, of course, hopefully replicates the actual acoustics.

The purpose of the simulated design practice is to see whether we can approximate the sound of ritual spaces that may have been significantly altered or no longer exist. Two ideal examples have been proposed for this – one a particular semi-enclosed ritual space and the other a Neapolitan church – both with fascinating associated musical/ritual practices, both with detailed descriptions of the structures, neither in extant.

Another preliminary research direction we will start organizing is to study how sound elicits or affects the human perception of space, size and geometries. All input is welcome!

Of course, we also hope to do actual site studies of existing structures. Although we have yet to return to being able to schedule travel and get access to sites, Tim Weaver is planning to conduct the first grant-supported field trip to record in sacred archeological sites in Utah. With some good fortune, we will be able to realize our...

Pre-pandemic plans  - post-pandemic hopes

We will initially consider a broad and diverse range of acoustical spaces, music and sonic cultures, and ritual practices, including: 

• Ritual spaces of indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

• Calls to prayer in various religions, cultures and topographies - including studies of bells, non-pitched percussion, aerophones (trumpets, etc) and vocalizations (both performed live and broadcast electronically).

• Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches in Europe and the Middle East, where musical practices and traditions both responded to, and dictated architectural designs.

This cross cultural selection of case studies spans a broad swath of cultures and styles. Each poses particular intellectual, cultural questions, along with technical challenges.
Using data from existing site studies, and adding new acoustic analyses and models we hope to create a taxonomy of acoustics intrinsic to aesthetic experience in religion and culture that will integrate architectural acoustics with historical, anthropological, and archaeological studies, and to evaluate the perceptual implications of these aesthetic settings. Design, creation, and implementation of virtual acoustics that replicate the aesthetic sonic experience of particular spaces and traditions will provide a framework for studying and measuring the perception and cognition of ritual and musical sound in a manner not yet explored. Sound and music are intrinsic to human ritual and culture. Remarkably little attention has been given to the sonic spaces that house, color, and shape the sounds that comprise these ritual and aesthetic experiences. The proposed project aims to contribute to cognitive theories of the aesthetic experience through a broad inter-disciplinary exploration of the interplay of sound and space. Taking account of religious and cultural conventions and conceptions of sound and audition we hope to address questions such as:

 • How does sound, echo, and resonance relate to the invisible and occult?

• What is the role of sound in evoking a sense of a space being ‘sacred’? Highly reverberant spaces have the capacity to be perceptually and physically disorienting, obscuring the source of a sound and blurring linguistic and musical segmentation boundaries.
• How do domed and vaulted structures create reflections from above the listener? What are the perceptual effects of these reflections?

• How and why does this perceptual confusion occur, and what is its role in the aesthetic and spiritual experience?


prior and current work:
The science of architectural acoustics, with specific attention music in concert halls has evolved over the past century through the development of tools and methods for the measurement of soundwave propagation, dispersion, reflection and decay [Lacatis et al, 2008]. There have been a small number of studies of listeners’ preferences in music performance spaces, for example (Beranek, 2016). Some music scholars have broadly considered the role of architecture in music style and performance (Dart, 1962). More recently, methods of computationally modeling the acoustic characteristics of architectural spaces have led to methods of auralization of architectural spaces (Pentcheva and Abel, 2017). Members of the proposed research have begun to study the interaction between music performance and rooms with virtual acoustics (Canfield-Dafilou et al, 2019).
The role of music and, more generally, sound in religion has recently drawn increased attention (Hackett, 2012) and recent efforts to map and capture ritual and ecstatic sounds, such as the American Religious Sounds Project (ARSP, 2019) and the Religious Sounds Map Project (McClymond, 2017) have created repositories of ritual sounds and music. The proposed project would be the first of its kind to integrate architectural and spatial aspects of religious sounds effectively making houses and places of worship musical instruments through reverberation, resonance, etc.
18 month deliverables
Our ‘audacious’ goal is to foster a new mode of thinking about musical aesthetics - one in which the architectural and spatial acoustics of the sound are integral, and a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the interplay of sound and space in the development of art. To this aim we will introduce novel methods and refine existing practices of acoustical research, music analysis, and music perception and cognition. We hope to contribute new knowledge to musicology and anthropology by demonstrating the roles music, ritual, reverberation, and resonance play in arts and rituals across cultures.
Our specific ‘deliverables’ in the eighteen month grant period include:
1. Site visits of sub-groups to document, measure, and record impulse responses of select initial sites.
2. Creating virtual acoustic models and auralizations of the initial sites.
3. Design and conduct psychoacoustic and behavioral experiments involving musical sounds in the virtual spaces.
4. Compilation of an open source library of impulse response measurements, 3D architectural renderings, and virtual acoustic recordings
5. Open source software and guides for impulse response recording and virtual acoustic rendering
6. Conference presentations and at least one journal paper.
7. A framework for further research aimed at the creation of a new cross-disciplinary effort in the integration of research on sound, space, and human behavior.

© Stanford University. 2020