Space, S[acred|ecular]

2014, 3rd order Ambisonics

2016, new version, 5th order Ambisonics

Program Notes

Hagia Sophia in Istambul, Turkey, was once a cathedral, a mosque and is now a secular museum. Its main dome rises up to a height of 182 ft and the building is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. The Icons of Sound group at CCRMA, Stanford University and the Arts and Art History Department at Stanford sought to recreate its acoustics digitally so that music created centuries ago for that space could be "heard" again as intended (at least virtually). The culmination of the project was a Stanford Live concert in the 2013 opening season of the Bing Concert Hall at Stanford ("From Constantinople to California"), in which the Cappella Romana singers, a group specializing in byzantine chanting, performed live within a computer simulated 3D rendering of the Hagia Sophia acoustics, inside Bing itself.

This recreation of Hagia Sophia remains frozen in the digital domain, and was the foundation and inspiration for the creation of this piece over a week of very intense work in the ZKM Kubus. It was also the testing ground of a new reverberation architecture that enabled me to work completely in the Ambisonics domain, creating soundfields that are independent of the number and location of the rendering speakers. This 3D environment created a natural and very convincing recreation of this very large space, in which the reverberation supports and maintains the spatial information of the music rendered within it.

The interplay between the secular and sacred aspects of Hagia Sophia, and the precise tailoring of percussion and vocal sounds into musical form inside the simulated space created the rest.

About the piece

The piece was rendered in full 3rd order Ambisonics using Free, Open Source software running in a Linux laptop, and was completely written in Scheme, using Bill Schottstaedt's CLM (Common Lisp Music) and its s7 Scheme interpreter. The simulation of the acoustic environment was created in Ardour with various plugins. In 2016 the piece was further tuned and re-rendered in 5th order Ambisonics.


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