Current Issue Article Abstracts

2019 Vol. 9.2   Special Issue: Sounding Heritage

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Listening Beyond the Visible
Pamela Jordan

Overhearing History: Sound as Historical Material
Pamela Jordan, Dr. Sabine von Fischer


Lending an Ear to Architectural History: Commemorating Meyershof, ca. 1932
Florence Feiereisen, Erin Sassin

While there is an extensive body of literature on the history of Berlin's mass housing in visual terms, we approach architectural history via acoustic ecology to add a sonic layer to our understanding of the built environment. Listening to the soundscapes of Meyershof, an infamous Berlin tenement, we discuss the relationship between architectural form, sound, and the everyday experiences of the residents. Mining architectural plans, artistic representations, and earwitness accounts in newspaper articles and police reports of the time for sonic clues, our examination of the sights and sounds of Meyershof seeks to (literally) recall the sonic conditions of a time within which communities were formed, dissolved, and reformed. Against a monosensory understanding of the past through vision alone, we contend that the marginalized sense of hearing is a suitable approach to give marginalized groups a "voice."

Archaeoacoustics Fieldwork for Aural Heritage Conservation: Collaborative Distributed Sound-Sensing at Chavín de Huántar, Perú
Miriam A. Kolar, Annie Goh, Elías Gálvez-Arango, Brian Morris, Alexa Romano, Samantha Turley, Sophia Colello, William Penniman, Jack Boffa, Celine Wang, Gregory Depaul, Kevin Keene

Although sound has been featured in archaeological narratives about the UNESCO World Heritage Centre archaeological site at Chavín de Huántar, Perú since 1976, aural heritage preservation has not yet been incorporated in its conservation plan beyond the formal inclusion of archaeoacoustics in the research program since 2008. Our research framework situates sound as fundamental to human communication and the social functionality of places; sonic concerns are pertinent to heritage conservation more broadly than currently addressed. In this article, we present a theoretical framework and methodology for aural heritage research, engagement, and conservation. Our case-study discussion of 2018 fieldwork at Chavín builds on a decade of site-responsive archaeoacoustics research that has documented acoustical dynamics as well as perceptual and performance affordances of the extant architecture and site-excavated conch-shell horns (Strombus pututus) preserved since the mid-firstmillennium BCE. The aural heritage fieldwork method we introduce here, "collaborative distributed sound-sensing," employs both human observers and digital technologies to explore, document, measure, and map sound transmission and reception at Chavín, via reconstructive "performance auralizations" of archaeologically appropriate sound sources, Strombus shell replicas of the Chavín pututus.

The Ceramic Vessels of Trg: Acoustic Wall Construction in a Medieval Serbian Church
Zorana Đorđević, Dragan Novković, Filip Pantelić

This paper examines the existing acoustic conditions of the church in the village of Trg in eastern Serbia and investigates the acoustic effects of ceramic vessels originally embedded in the church walls but extracted when the church was restored to its original medieval layout in the 1980s. The impulse response of the church's interior space was measured in situ, providing the various acoustic parameters that numerically describe the acoustic field of a space, of which we particularly considered the reverberation time (T30), early decay time (EDT) and the speech transmission index (STI). We acoustically measured all of the eleven remaining intact vessels, and we built a 3D acoustic model of the vessels for the lab analysis. Our findings suggest that the vessels positioned as found during the restoration works—vertically, upside down, at a height of 3.75 meters, behind a thin stone facing—made no discernible difference in the acoustics of the Trg church. However, comparative research via similar studies of medieval churches suggest that the original builders may have misinterpreted the technology of acoustic vessels and may have installed them in a manner that disabled their possible effect on church acoustics.

Concert Hall Acoustics and the Sounding Heritage of the Interwar Period in America: The Coolidge Auditorium (Library of Congress, Washington, DC, 1925)
Mark A. Pottinger

Starting in 1895 with the work of Wallace Clement Sabine (1868–1919), the science of architectural acoustics was born. Sabine's work on the materialization of sound influenced countless architects and physicists alike, including the famous New York City–based architect Charles A. Platt (1861–1933) and MIT physics instructor Clifford Melville Swan (1877–1951), a former student of Sabine. Both Platt and Swan collaborated on the design of the Coolidge Auditorium, housed in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Built in 1925, the five-hundred-plus seat chamber hall highlights the idealized listening environment of the interwar period in America, which was still reeling from the noise-filled horrors of World War I as it embarked on a progressive agenda to build the modern urban metropolis. In spite of the increased popularity at the time for large purpose-built halls to house films, big band jazz performances, and grand spectacle entertainment, the Coolidge Auditorium presented a small, intimate space with an explicit desire to reform music in America. In this article I explore this early twentieth-century listening environment and conclude by comparing the Coolidge Auditorium to the concert hall of today, which I argue is directly connected to the built environment of the early twentieth century, with its growing fascination with radio transmission and electronically reproduced music.

Soundscape as an Outstanding Universal Value: An Introduction with Case Studies of Chinese World Cultural Heritage Sites
Jun Zheng

Sound was an important element in residential and landscape design in ancient China. Acoustic sources of geophony, ecophony (tianlai and dilai in Chinese, meaning sound of heaven and earth), and anthrophony (renlai, man-made sound) are frequently used together with landscape, and sometimes also with scentscape, to make the living environs an ideal microcosm for cultivating minds and achieving unity with nature, a philosophical idea of Confucianism and Daoism that the elite class of society has pursued in the past. Dictated by this functional purpose, only sounds regarded as elegant or bestowed with philosophical, cultural, and religious meanings are chosen in the design. Currently, many of these designs have been preserved as soundscape heritage.

By 2019, of the forty-one Chinese cultural and mixed World Heritage properties designated by UNESCO, twenty-eight have sound as an important attribute testifying to the outstanding universal values. This paper gives an introduction to the Chinese perception of sound, followed by a detailed analysis of soundscapes of three world cultural heritage sites in terms of their philosophical and cultural meanings and design techniques, and finally a brief discussion of the challenges on the conservation and management of soundscape heritage.


Sound Archives and Online Repositories
Pamela Jordan