Sharon Gerstel (UCLA) & Chris Kyriakakis (USC), “Soundscapes: An Approach to Hearing Buildings and their Decoration”

Thursday, May 11, 2017

5:30 pm

CCRMA Classroom Map

Sponsored by:
Material Imagination, Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Department of Art & Art History, Department of English

Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Byzantium, presents an ideal laboratory for the study of Byzantine soundscapes. Its large number of decorated churches range in date from the 5th to the 15th century and are built in a wide variety of architectural plans. The decoration of the buildings, in marble, mosaic, and fresco, is exquisite. For the last five years, an international team of scholars led by Sharon Gerstel (UCLA) and Chris Kyriakakis (USC) has been measuring and analyzing the acoustical properties of the city’s churches. This presentation examines two of the earliest tested churches, the Acheiropoietos basilica and the cathedral of Hagia Sophia, in order to provide objective and phenomenological accounts of how sound — both chanted and spoken — was produced and received. The examination of each church through the consideration of its original shape, furnishings, decoration, liturgy, music, acoustics, and psyschoacoustics raises new questions about the creation of soundscapes, the ties between the two buildings, and the sacred role of the streets that connected them. This study also deepens our understanding of the archaeoacoustics of Thessaloniki’s early churches.

Sharon E. J. Gerstel is Professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology at UCLA. Her work focuses on the intersection of ritual and art in Byzantium and the Latin East. Her books include Beholding the Sacred Mysteries (1999) and Rural Lives and Landscapes in Late Byzantium: Art, Archaeology and Ethnography (2015), which was awarded the 2016 Runciman Prize by the Anglo-Hellenic League. Gerstel has also edited A Lost Art Rediscovered: The Architectural Ceramics of Byzantium (with J. Lauffenburger) (2001); Thresholds of the Sacred: Art Historical, Archaeological, Liturgical and Theological Views on Religious Screens, East and West (2007); Approaching the Holy Mountain: Art and Liturgy at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai (with Robert S. Nelson) (2010); Viewing the Morea: Land and People in the Late Medieval Peloponnese (2012); and Viewing Greece: Cultural and Political Agency in the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean (2016).

Chris Kyriakakis is Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Systems at USC. His most recent research is in the field of Archaeoacoustics with a focus on the capture, characterization and simulation of the acoustics of medieval Byzantine churches. This is a unique interdisciplinary project that bridges Engineering and Art History: Hearing the Lost Sounds of Antiquity. Prof. Kyriakakis has published nearly 100 technical papers, as well as a book entitled Immersive Audio Signal Processing, and holds several patents in acoustic measurement of loudspeakers in rooms, loudspeaker crossover optimization, and loudspeaker response correction using signal processing. In 2006, he received a World Technology Network Award. This organization presents awards to innovators in several areas in which technology can foster a paradigm change. His award was for innovations in immersive audio that enable new capabilities in media and journalism. Other award recipients that year included Vice President Al Gore, Google, and Space-X.

Thursday, May 11, 2017
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
CCRMA Classroom Map

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