Special Issue "Historical Acoustics: Relationships between People and Sound over Time"

A special issue of Acoustics (ISSN 2624-599X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2019).

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Sounds are physical phenomena filled with information content that have helped mankind to make sense of the world and finding its way over centuries, since the beginning of time. While the establishment of “acoustics” as the science of the “production, transmission and effects of sound” in our modern understanding could be determined to have happened approximately two-hundred year ago, scientific acoustical studies date back to the 6th century BC, with the ancient Greek philosophers, and were developed later on by Roman architects and engineers. In fact, the interest human communities have shown towards acoustical phenomena goes back much more than that, for which recent research outcomes from archaeoacoustics, investigating the auditory and acoustic environment of prehistoric sites and monuments, have been very fruitful. Indeed, societies and cultures have been more or less aware of the importance of “sound” and the science underpinning it, and acoustics have always played a central role for our lives and evolution.

This Special Issue, as the first Special Issue of this newly-established journal, seeks to explore the origins of acoustics, by examining relationships between people and sound over time. It aims at gathering contributions from a broad range of topics related (but not limited) to: Acoustic characterization of prehistorical and historical spaces and buildings, acoustics of worship spaces (e.g., temples, mosques, churches, etc.) and ancient theatres, auralization of soundscapes of the past, soundscape of heritage sites and sound as cultural heritage, and literature reviews about acoustic treaties.

Prof. Jian Kang
Dr. Francesco Aletta
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Acoustics is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Historical acoustics
  • Archaeoacoustics
  • Ancient theatres
  • Worship acoustics
  • Soundscapes of the past
  • Cultural heritage

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Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Historical Acoustics: Relationships between People and Sound over Time
Acoustics 2020, 2(1), 128-130; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics2010009 - 23 Feb 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 1936
Abstract
The Special Issue “Historical Acoustics: Relationships between People and Sound over Time” was the inaugural collection of the recently established journal “Acoustics (MDPI)”, so it felt appropriate to give it a focus to history, places and events of historical relevance, seeking [...] Read more.
The Special Issue “Historical Acoustics: Relationships between People and Sound over Time” was the inaugural collection of the recently established journal “Acoustics (MDPI)”, so it felt appropriate to give it a focus to history, places and events of historical relevance, seeking to explore the origins of acoustics, and examining the relationships that have evolved over the centuries between people and auditory phenomena [...] Full article

Research

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Article
The Acoustic Environment of York Minster’s Chapter House
Acoustics 2020, 2(1), 13-36; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics2010003 - 30 Jan 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2545
Abstract
York Minster is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, renowned for its magnificent architecture and its stained glass windows. Both acoustic measurements and simulation techniques have been used to analyse the acoustic environment of its Chapter House, which dates from the [...] Read more.
York Minster is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, renowned for its magnificent architecture and its stained glass windows. Both acoustic measurements and simulation techniques have been used to analyse the acoustic environment of its Chapter House, which dates from the 13th-century and features an octagonal geometry with Gothic Decorated stone walls replete of geometric patterns and enormous stained glass windows, covered by a decorated wooden vault. Measured and simulated room impulse responses served to better understand how their architectural features work together to create its highly reverberant acoustic field. The authors start by analysing its acoustic characteristics in relation to its original purpose as a meeting place of the cathedral’s Chapter, and end by reflecting on its modern use for a variety of cultural events, such as concerts and exhibitions. This work is part of the “Cathedral Acoustics” project, funded by the EC through the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie scheme. Full article
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Article
The Proscenium of Opera Houses as a Disappeared Intangible Heritage: A Virtual Reconstruction of the 1840s Original Design of the Alighieri Theatre in Ravenna
Acoustics 2019, 1(3), 694-710; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1030041 - 01 Sep 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2061
Abstract
In a Historical Opera House (HOH), the proscenium is the foreground part of the stage. Until the end of the 19th Century, it was extended through the cavea, being the orchestra placed at the same level of the stalls, without an orchestra pit. [...] Read more.
In a Historical Opera House (HOH), the proscenium is the foreground part of the stage. Until the end of the 19th Century, it was extended through the cavea, being the orchestra placed at the same level of the stalls, without an orchestra pit. Soloists often moved in the proscenium when they sung, in order to increase the strength of the voice and the intelligibility of the text. The Alighieri theatre in Ravenna, designed by the Meduna brothers, the former designers of Venice’s “La Fenice” theater, is chosen as a case study. During a refurbishment in 1928, the proscenium of the stage was removed in order to open the orchestra pit, which was not considered in the original design. The original design and the present one are compared by using numerical simulations. Acoustic measurements of the opera house and vibro-acoustic measurements on a wooden stage help to reach a proper calibration of both models. Results are discussed by means of ISO 3382 criteria: the proscenium increases the sound strength of the soloists but reduces the intelligibility of the text. Full article
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Article
Sound Archaeology: A Study of the Acoustics of Three World Heritage Sites, Spanish Prehistoric Painted Caves, Stonehenge, and Paphos Theatre
Acoustics 2019, 1(3), 661-692; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1030039 - 09 Aug 2019
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 6698
Abstract
This paper explores the acoustics of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: five caves in Spain that feature prehistoric paintings that are up to 40,000 years old; Stonehenge stone circle in England, which is over 4000 years old; and Paphos Theatre in Cyprus, which [...] Read more.
This paper explores the acoustics of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: five caves in Spain that feature prehistoric paintings that are up to 40,000 years old; Stonehenge stone circle in England, which is over 4000 years old; and Paphos Theatre in Cyprus, which is 2000 years old. Issues with standard acoustic methods are discussed, and a range of different possible approaches are explored for sound archaeology studies, also known as archaeoacoustics. The context of the three sites are examined followed by an analysis of their acoustic properties. Firstly, early decay time is explored, including a comparison of these sites to contemporary concert halls. Subsequently, reverberation, clarity of speech, and bass response are examined. Results show that the caves have a wide range of different naturally occurring acoustics, including reverberation, and strong bass effects. Stonehenge has acoustics that change as the design of the site develops, with some similarities to the effects in the caves. Acoustic effects vary considerably as you move further into the centre of the stone circle, and as the stone circle develops through time; these effects would be noticeable, and are a by-product of the human building of ritual sites. At Paphos Theatre, acoustics vary from the best seats on the front rows, backwards; here, the architects have considered acoustics in the design of the building. The paper illustrates the changing acoustics of ritual sites in human cultures, showing how sound contributed to giving spaces an individual character, helping to afford a sense of contextualized ritual place. Full article
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Article
Historic Approaches to Sonic Encounter at the Berlin Wall Memorial
Acoustics 2019, 1(3), 517-537; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1030029 - 16 Jul 2019
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2247
Abstract
Investigations of historic soundscapes must analyze and place results within a complex framework of contemporary and past contexts. However, the conscious use and presentation of historic built environments are factors that require more deliberate attention in historic soundscape analysis. The following paper presents [...] Read more.
Investigations of historic soundscapes must analyze and place results within a complex framework of contemporary and past contexts. However, the conscious use and presentation of historic built environments are factors that require more deliberate attention in historic soundscape analysis. The following paper presents a multimodal research methodology and promising preliminary results from a study at the Berlin Wall Memorial in Berlin, Germany. Here, the historic context from the Wall’s recent past is presented within the surroundings of the contemporary unified capital city. The study approached the past soundscape and present site by combining historic and current-conditions research, linking archival research, conditions assessments via binaural recording and psychoacoustics analysis tools, and soundscape surveys rooted in standardized soundscape research practices. In so doing, archival textual and pictorial sources provided a rich source of primary information integrated within the study and are suggested as a resource for similar inquiries elsewhere. The investigation identified concerns specific to heritage sites that require critical consideration for historic soundscape research of the recent past—survey-participant composition and the problematized use of typical descriptors in soundscape surveys are the two concerns that are discussed. Some standardized soundscape terminology and research methodologies were found to be insufficient in historic contexts. Initial qualitative results from the research are presented as a proof of concept for the research approach with signposts for future analysis and developments. Full article
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Article
Acoustical Impact of Architectonics and Material Features in the Lifespan of Two Monumental Sacred Structures
Acoustics 2019, 1(3), 493-516; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1030028 - 16 Jul 2019
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1999
Abstract
Hagia Sophia and Süleymaniye Mosque, built in the 6th and 16th centuries, respectively, are the two major monuments of the İstanbul World Heritage Site. Within the context of this study, sound fields of these two sacred multi-domed monumental structures are analyzed with a [...] Read more.
Hagia Sophia and Süleymaniye Mosque, built in the 6th and 16th centuries, respectively, are the two major monuments of the İstanbul World Heritage Site. Within the context of this study, sound fields of these two sacred multi-domed monumental structures are analyzed with a focus on their architectonic and material attributes and applied alterations in basic restoration works. A comprehensive study is undertaken by a comparative analysis over acoustical field tests held in different years and over an extensive literature review on their material and architectural characteristics. Initially, the major features of Hagia Sophia and Süleymaniye Mosque are presented, and later, basic alterations in regard to function and materials are provided. The methodology includes the field tests carried both within the scope of this research as well as the published test results by other researchers. Acoustical simulations are utilized for comparison of unoccupied versus occupied conditions and also for discussion on original materials. The impact of historical plasters on the acoustics of domed spaces is highlighted. Common room acoustics parameters as of reverberation time and clarity are utilized in comparisons. The formation of multi-slope sound energy decay is discussed in light of different spiritual and acoustical needs expected from such monumental sacred spaces. Full article
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Article
Archaeoacoustic Examination of Lazarica Church
Acoustics 2019, 1(2), 423-438; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1020024 - 17 May 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1929
Abstract
The acoustic analysis provides additional information on building tradition and related indoor practice that includes sound, thus deepening our understanding of architectural heritage. In this paper, the sound field of the Orthodox medieval church Lazarica (Kruševac city, Serbia) is examined. Lazarica is a [...] Read more.
The acoustic analysis provides additional information on building tradition and related indoor practice that includes sound, thus deepening our understanding of architectural heritage. In this paper, the sound field of the Orthodox medieval church Lazarica (Kruševac city, Serbia) is examined. Lazarica is a representative of Morava architectural style, developed in the final period of the Serbian medieval state, when also the chanting art thrived, proving the importance of the aural environment in Serbian churches. The church plan is a combination of a traditional inscribed cross and a triconch. After the in situ measurement of acoustic impulse response using EASERA software, we built a computer model in the acoustic simulation software EASE and calibrated it accordingly. Following the parameters (reverberation time (T30), early decay time (EDT) and speech transmission index (STI)), we examined the acoustic effect of the space occupancy, central dome and the iconostasis. In all the cases, no significant deviation between T30 and EDT parameter was observed, which indicates uniform sound energy decay. Closing the dome with a flat ceiling did not show any significant impact on T30, but it lowered speech intelligibility. The height of iconostasis showed no significant influence on the acoustics of Lazarica church. Full article
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Article
The Contribution of the Stage Design to the Acoustics of Ancient Greek Theatres
Acoustics 2019, 1(1), 337-353; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1010018 - 23 Mar 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2907
Abstract
The famous acoustics of ancient Greek theatres rely on a successful combination of appropriate location and architectural design. The theatres of the ancient world effectively combine two contradictory requirements: large audience capacity and excellent aural and visual comfort. Despite serious alterations resulting from [...] Read more.
The famous acoustics of ancient Greek theatres rely on a successful combination of appropriate location and architectural design. The theatres of the ancient world effectively combine two contradictory requirements: large audience capacity and excellent aural and visual comfort. Despite serious alterations resulting from either Roman modifications or accumulated damage, most of these theatres are still theatrically and acoustically functional. Acoustic research has proven that ancient theatres are applications of a successful combination of the basic parameters governing the acoustic design of open-air venues: elimination of external noise, harmonious arrangement of the audience around the performing space, geometric functions among the various parts of the theatre, reinforcement of the direct sound through positive sound reflections, and suppression of the delayed sound reflections or reverberation. Specifically, regarding the acoustic contribution of the stage building, it is important to clarify the consecutive modifications of the skene in the various types of theatres, given the fact that stage buildings were almost destroyed in most ancient Greek theatres. This paper attempts to demonstrate the positive role of the scenery in contemporary performances of ancient drama to improve the acoustic comfort using data from a sample of twenty (20) ancient theatres in Greece. Full article
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Article
Towards Italian Opera Houses: A Review of Acoustic Design in Pre-Sabine Scholars
Acoustics 2019, 1(1), 252-280; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1010015 - 01 Mar 2019
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 2754
Abstract
The foundation of architectural acoustics as an independent science is generally referred to Sabine’s early studies and their application. Nevertheless, since the 16th Century, a great number of authors wrote essays and treatises on the design of acoustic spaces, with a growing attention [...] Read more.
The foundation of architectural acoustics as an independent science is generally referred to Sabine’s early studies and their application. Nevertheless, since the 16th Century, a great number of authors wrote essays and treatises on the design of acoustic spaces, with a growing attention to the newborn typology of the Opera house, whose evolution is strongly connected to the cultural background of the Italian peninsula. With roots in the Renaissance rediscovery of Vitruvius’s treatise and his acoustic theory, 16th- to 19th-Century Italian authors tackled several issues concerning the construction of theatres—among them, architectural and structural features, the choice of the materials, the social meanings of performances. Thanks to this literature, the consolidation of this body of knowledge led to a standardisation of the forms of the Italian Opera house throughout the 19th Century. Therefore, the scope of this review paper is to focus on the treatises, essays and publications regarding theatre design, written by pre-Sabinian Italian scholars. The analysis of such literature aims at highlighting the consistencies in some 19th-Century minor Italian Opera houses, in order to understand to what extent this scientific and experimental background was part of the building tradition during the golden age of the Italian Opera. Full article
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Article
Performance Space, Political Theater, and Audibility in Downtown Chaco
Acoustics 2019, 1(1), 78-91; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1010007 - 27 Dec 2018
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2518
Abstract
Chaco Canyon, NM, USA, was the center of an Ancestral Puebloan polity from approximately 850–1140 CE, and home to a dozen palatial structures known as “great houses” and scores of ritual structures called “great kivas”. It is hypothesized that the 2.5 km2 [...] Read more.
Chaco Canyon, NM, USA, was the center of an Ancestral Puebloan polity from approximately 850–1140 CE, and home to a dozen palatial structures known as “great houses” and scores of ritual structures called “great kivas”. It is hypothesized that the 2.5 km2 centered on the largest great house, Pueblo Bonito (i.e., “Downtown Chaco”), served as an open-air performance space for both political theater and sacred ritual. The authors used soundshed modeling tools within the Archaeoacoustics Toolbox to illustrate the extent of this performance space and the interaudibility between various locations within Downtown Chaco. Architecture placed at liminal locations may have inscribed sound in the landscape, physically marking the boundary of the open-air performance space. Finally, the implications of considering sound within political theater will be discussed. Full article
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Article
The Acoustics of the Choir in Spanish Cathedrals
Acoustics 2019, 1(1), 35-46; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1010004 - 06 Dec 2018
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1810
Abstract
One of the most significant enclosures in worship spaces is that of the choir. Generally, from a historical point of view, the choir is a semi-enclosed and privileged area reserved for the clergy, whose position and configuration gives it a private character. Regarding [...] Read more.
One of the most significant enclosures in worship spaces is that of the choir. Generally, from a historical point of view, the choir is a semi-enclosed and privileged area reserved for the clergy, whose position and configuration gives it a private character. Regarding the generation and transformation of ecclesial interior spaces, the choir commands a role of the first magnitude. Its shape and location produce, on occasions, major modifications that significantly affect the acoustics of these indoor spaces. In the case of Spanish cathedrals, whose design responds to the so-called “Spanish type”, the central position of the choir, enclosed by high stonework walls on three of its sides and with numerous wooden stalls inside, breaks up the space in the main nave, thereby generating other new spaces, such as the trascoro. The aim of this work was to analyse the acoustic evolution of the choir as one of the main elements that configure the sound space of Spanish cathedrals. By means of in situ measurements and simulation models, the main acoustic parameters were evaluated, both in their current state and in their original configurations that have since disappeared. This analysis enabled the various acoustic conditions existing between the choir itself and the area of the faithful to be verified, and the significant improvement of the acoustic quality in the choir space to become apparent. The effect on the acoustic parameters is highly significant, with slight differences in the choir, where the values are appropriate for Gregorian chants, and suitable intelligibility of sung text. High values are also obtained in the area of the faithful, which lacked specific acoustic requirements at the time of construction. Full article
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Article
Acoustic Simulation of Julius Caesar’s Battlefield Speeches
Acoustics 2019, 1(1), 3-13; https://doi.org/10.3390/acoustics1010002 - 14 Oct 2018
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2557
Abstract
History contains many accounts of speeches given by civic and military leaders before large crowds prior to the invention of electronic amplification. Historians have debated the historical accuracy of these accounts, often making some reference to acoustics, either supporting or refuting the accounts, [...] Read more.
History contains many accounts of speeches given by civic and military leaders before large crowds prior to the invention of electronic amplification. Historians have debated the historical accuracy of these accounts, often making some reference to acoustics, either supporting or refuting the accounts, but without any numerical justification. The field of digital humanities, and more specifically archaeoacoustics, seeks to use computational techniques to provide empirical data to improve historical analysis. Julius Caesar recalled giving speeches to 14,000 men after the battle of Dyrrachium and another to 22,000 men before the battle of Pharsalus during the Roman Civil War. Caesar’s background and education are discussed, including his training in rhetoric and oratory, which would have affected his articulation and effective sound pressure level while addressing his troops. Based on subjective reports about Caesar’s oratorical abilities, his effective Sound Pressure Level (SPL) is assumed to be 80 dBA, about 6 dB above the average loud speaking voice but lower than that of the loudest trained actors and singers. Simulations show that for reasonable background noise conditions Caesar could have been heard intelligibly by 14,000 soldiers in a quiet, controlled environment as in the speech at Dyrrachium. In contrast, even granting generous acoustic and geometric conditions, Caesar could not have been heard by more than about 700 soldiers while his army was on the march before the battle of Pharsalus. Full article
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