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Research Colloquium: James Cook
February 18 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pmFree
James Cook (University of Edinburgh)
Hearing Historic Scotland
The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Annabelle Page and George Haggett organise the series. Presentations are followed by discussion and a drinks reception. Students, staff, and the general public are warmly encouraged to attend.
Imagine experiencing a musical moment from the past: a rich, sensory experience that combines the interplay of candlelight on beautiful devotional art, the exquisite performance of 15th-century sacred music, and the warm acoustics of a performance space that now no longer exists, all in immersive virtual reality. This is what the AHRC-funded ‘Space, Place, Sound, and Memory: Immersive Experiences of the Past’, set out to do. Working closely with game developers, musicologists, architectural historians, and acousticians, we aimed to recreate the sounds and sensations of early music performance in virtual reality. We began by painstakingly piecing together two historical performance contexts from fragmentary sources and records, and then recorded historically-informed performances in an anechoic chamber, a space that is specifically designed to have no natural acoustic. Once complete, we constructed two virtual auditoria, digitally rebuilding St. Cecilia’s Hall and the Chapel at Linlithgow Palace from detailed laser scans taken on site, and then reconstructing plausible interiors from the historical and architectural record. Finally, we brought the recordings and virtual spaces together using acoustic ray-tracing to recreate the sensations of hearing a historic performance, in its original performance space. My talk today explains the processes that we went through and explains some of its outcomes. I will also contextualise our work within the broader academic and performance landscape, discussing questions relating to historically informed performance practice, immersion and flow, and the place of new technologies in historical research, education, and the cultural and heritage industries. The presentation will also include the chance to experience the VR first-hand.