How a historian filled Hagia Sophia’s sound into a studio


Turquoise carpets covered the marble floor with their geometric designs. The white curtain hid the mosaic of the Virgin and Christ. Scaffolding cross porn and other Christian symbols.

A worldwide broadcast last week showed the Byzantine Cathedral in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, which served as a mosque under Ottoman rule before it became a museum in 1934, some of these striking changes, at the behest of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Occupied. It is now once again used as a mosque.

But for a group of scholars, scientists and musicians, the rediscovery of Hagia Sophia as a Muslim place of worship threatens to threaten a less tangible treasure: its sound. Bisera Pentcheva, an art historian at Stanford University and an expert on the cumbersome field of acoustic archeology, has studied the building’s exceptionally iconic artifacts over the past decade to recreate the vast world of Byzantine cathedral music. Ms. Pentcheva argues that Hagia Sophia’s mysterious talent manifests itself fully when it is seen as a pot for animated light – and sound.

“Zero is a stage,” she said in a recent interview on Zoom.

Conducting research inside this competition monument requires a mixture of diplomacy, ingenuity and technology. Turkish authorities prohibited singing inside the Hagia Sophia, even when it was operated as a museum. Now that this building falls under the jurisdiction of religious authorities, the ban will be stricter, and further research may be even more difficult.

But Ms. Pentcheva’s current work culminates in the release of “The Lost Voice of Hagia Sophia”, an album that brings the mystery of the life of the Byzantine Cathedral Liturgy, to which it was written, in the magnificent artifacts of space Was bathed. However it was recorded in a studio in California.

For almost 20 years, it has been possible to superimpose the acoustics of a particular location on music recorded during postproduction. One precursor was Ultiverb, a plug-in software that draws a large library of virtual space so that a recorded track can be retrofitted to appear as if it were done, e.g. , King’s Chair inside the Berlin Philharmony or Great Pyramid. Giza

But in what is known as live virtual acoustics, processors and speakers provide acoustic feedback of a particular location in real time, so that musicians can adjust their performance as if they were actually in another building.

Jonathan Abell, an advisory professor at the Center for Computer Research in Academics at Stanford, and Ms. Bisera, a professor at Ecuptics at Stanford, drew up a plan that helped her learn important information about the acoustic properties of Hagia Sophia with the help of balloon, judicious recording equipment Allowed to occupy. And a cooperative security guard.

In the winter of 2010, Ms. Pentcheva obtained permission to enter, which was a museum in the morning, when Istanbul was quiet. He persuaded a guard to stand in a place that had been occupied by singers during the Byzantine era and to pop a balloon. In the meantime, he positioned himself where a privileged member of the public had experienced a large following. The microphone captured the forthcoming axis of sound explosion and redistribution.

Ms. Pentcheva was allowed to capture only four such platforms in two visits. But the sound burst caused a wealth of data.

“A little balloon pop brings back all the information about the material and the size of the space,” Mr. Abel said. “You can think of a human voice made up of a whole swarm of balloon pops. Each sound flows like a bunch of impulse responses, a streamer in the back of a wedding car.”

Balloon noise, along with a map of the interior, allows Mr. Abell to identify what he calls the building’s acoustic fingerprint, which includes multidimensional refraction of sound, as it closes the dome and the marble colony. His computer simulation was then integrated into a set of microphones and speakers.

Thus, Portland, Ore. Members of Capjela Romana, a vocal ensemble based in Byzantine Jaap, recorded “The Lost Voice” in a space that effortlessly captures the sound of Hagia Sophia – its luscious reverence, cross echo and amplification with. Frequencies in particular.

Alexander Lingas, a musician and music director of Cappella Romana, said that live virtual acoustics were transformative for his understanding of the group’s performances. Prolonged recombination times controlled the slowing speed. Drone Singing The drone made subtle pitch adjustments to match the frequencies of maximum resonance.

Mr Lingas said that some of the pieces were only “sensible” inside the fake phonics. An example depicted on the album is a compassionate hymn that likens singers to angels.

“The music is designed to convey that,” Mr. Lingas said. “But I remember editing this piece and thinking, ‘My, this is really weird.” “Still, he said the group rehearsed it with virtual acoustics, a pattern of repetitive motifs that created moving motion for as long as they described. This,” the sound essentially achieved liftoff. “

Ms. Pentcheva believed that in Byzantine Cathedral chanting, rebirth was important to enforce divine presence. He pointed to an excessive amount of melisma in the repertory, where the same syllable spans multiple notes. In the liquid acoustics of Hagia Sophia, the words are sung in such a way as a line drawn in ink on wet paper.

“Instead of this smearing of the pentant, the music really intensifies it,” Ms Pentcheva said. “So this is the process of isolation and isolation from the register of human language that occurs in Hagia Sophia, and is a desired goal.”

In Greek orthodox rites, Ms. Pentcheva argued, acoustics and chants interact in a way that “sound is not about carrying information, but sound is experience. It is purely a corporate investment.”

The recording gives a glimpse of that experience. The phrases chanted in Unison leave a frightening impression. Rhythmic tremors and grace notes set off the blurring squeals of overlapping echoes. Crowworks reverberate in bloom.

The acoustic drama of Hagia Sophia must have covered the senses, with the changing light of the burning sun and the curling smoke. This influence is described in the 6th century building of the building in the court of Justin Silentian by an aristocrat and poet Paul the Silentary.

“He speaks of a human action that brings in the presence of a divine response, a divine voice,” Ms. Pentcheva said. “In the sense that there is a resurgence of space: after the singing of the human voice ceases, the building continues.”

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