Tag Archives: music

Stonehenge app image

Bringing to life the sights and sounds of ancient world heritage sites

Dr Rupert Till and a team of technicians at the University of Huddersfield have launched an app which brings the sights and sounds of sites like Stonehenge back to life. Unlike other computer game-like walkarounds, the sonic dimension of the Huddersfield app enables the user to hear what an ancient site used to sound like, in addition to being able to see what it looked it. This has been achieved by integrating acoustic modelling and using recordings of relevant ancient musical instruments.

The app turns smartphones, tablets and computers into time travel devices, enabling users to see and to hear ancient and mysterious sites such as Stonehenge as they were in the distant past, before they fell into ruin.

Named the EMAP Soundgate, it is now available as a free download for iPhones and iPads, Android devices, for PC and Mac, and with a Mac only version at Apple’s App Store.

Exploring world heritage sites

In addition to Stonehenge, where Dr Till has conducted extensive research on the original acoustics, the first release of the app enables users to make visual and sonic virtual tours of two other World Heritage sites – Palaeolithic Age decorated caves near Altamira in Northern Spain, and the ancient Roman theatre at Paphos in Cyprus.  New sites could be added to future releases, and there are also plans to adapt it for virtual reality headsets.

Full physical access to the sites included on the first version of Dr Till’s app can be restricted. It is rare to be allowed to enter the centre of Stonehenge, for example and some of the caves are not open to the public.  Therefore the app, installed on a portable device, can enrich or even replace an actual visit. Stonehenge today is a remnant of what used to be there and this app enables visitors to see and hear what it was like at different periods, from the beginning of its development through to its completion about 4,000 years ago. App users will also have the choice of visualising the site in daylight, dusk or after dark, with appropriate natural sounds.

Ancient musical sound bank

Ancient musical instruments form part of the app’s sound bank, alongside environmental sounds such as bird song.  Dr Till’s recent activities have included the production of recordings for the European Musical Archaeology Project.  They have included an acclaimed disc of Viking age music and the sounds made by ancient bone flutes.

The app has been conceived, developed and produced in-house at the University of Huddersfield, with the expertise of its Computer Games department being crucial to the digital modelling, based on the acoustic data provided by Dr Till.

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Technology and Creativity in Electroacoustic Music

Technology plays an increasingly important role in the way music is created and disseminated. The majority of music heard today is mediated through digital technology of one form or another.

But has technology changed the creative possibilities open to composers? Or is it just the same music in a different medium? Can composers work in new ways and conceive their music differently because of the new technological opportunities available today?

The TaCEM project

The TaCEM project, Technology and Creativity in Electroacoustic Music, set out to examine these questions. This collaborative research project between the University of Huddersfield and Durham University was funded by a grant of £312,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and ran for 30 months.

The project examined nine case studies in depth. These nine musical compositions, chosen as outstanding examples of composers deploying new digital technology to significant effect, have been studied in terms of their technical means, their musical context and through music analysis. As part of the project the researchers visited composers from the UK, Europe, USA and Canada in order to discuss works ranging from 1977 to 2013 and analyse the technology that inspired them.

Interactive aural techniques

Professor Michael Clarke
Professor Michael Clarke

A major part of the research has been the use of Interactive Aural techniques, previously pioneered by Principal Investigator Professor Michael Clarke in earlier projects. This approach uses software so that the investigation can be undertaken in terms of sound and by emulating the technologies used for the music.

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Dr Frédéric Dufeu, Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield, has worked on the project and has made major advances in the way such interactive software is designed. He has produced emulations of several systems crucial to the development of computer music but now obsolete, enabling their characteristics to be examined and their creative potential researched.

This particular research project had a sense of urgency, as many of the pioneer composers in this field are ageing and so is much of the technology they used. As early computers and synthesisers become obsolete or unobtainable, it becomes increasingly difficult to recapture the sounds and techniques that inspired creativity in the field up to three decades ago. The period covered started in the 1970s right through to the recent past.

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In addition to the software dedicated to the individual case studies, generic software is being developed within the TaCEM project. TIAALS (Tools for Interactive Aural Analysis) enables the user to develop their own interactive aural analyses from the sound contents of any piece.

Co-investigator Professor Peter Manning from Durham University, a leading international expert on the history of electronic music and the technologies behind it, brought this expertise to the project.

International impact

The work has been presented at many of the major conferences in the field around the world, including in Athens, Berlin, Lisbon, London, Montreal, Paris and Perth in Australia. The work has been received with enthusiasm with many academics keen to use the software in their own teaching. The software is to be made freely available alongside a book Inside Computer Music to be published by Oxford University Press. Work is currently underway to complete the final case study for this publication.

Future work includes plans to develop the Interactive Aural approach to a wider repertoire of music including those aspects of acoustic music least suited to traditional notation and verbal description, for example, improvisation, world music and contemporary instrumental works.