Having just returned for the 3rd International Archaeoacoustics Conference some initial thoughts and report. The location for the conference; Tomar in the middle of Portugal, our academic host Fernando Coimbra, Professor of archaeology, Insituto Terra e Memoria, Geosciences Centre in conjunction with Linda Eneix and team of the Old Temples Study Foundation.
This conference seemed to be at a point at which 'archaeoacoustics' realised itself. There was much discussion for and against forming an international professional society, the need to explore further standards in practice and perhaps most pertinently allying the hard and soft sciences in a harmonious union. There are ney sayers on bath sides, however I believe the way forward is to address, accept and respect both perspectives. The experiential and the empirical should support each other.
I have decided as a field IR recordist that a study of field recording methodologies and techniques in archaeoacoustic research need explored further. There are enough researchers in the field across the globe engaged in audio field recording in heritage sites to justify a study to discover a mean approach which may lead to a standardised methodology. However with exponential advances in digital technology this needs approached with caution, risks and experimentation need to be made room for and encouraged. However digital technologies can help bring our archaeology and our imaginations alive, to paraphrase Dragos Gheorhiu; 'digital and VR technologies are the new shamanism - it can transport us'.
As well as completing my paper for the conference proceedings publication, this proposed field work study will be unveiled as it progresses here on Archaeoacoustics Scotland.
The conference was a truly amazing experience, Linda and her team have refined the conference package experience since the first conference in Malta, Feb. 2014. The programme featured long established researchers in the field and many new and younger researchers. The youngest presenter, Keith Harvey, 22 a first class Hons graduate of Perth College UHI. I was delighted to see how encouraging the established voices in archaeoacoustics were and nurturing in their advice and help towards Keith and others. It bodes well for the future.
The programmes keynote speakers are internationally re-knowned from Iegor Reznikoff, Ezra Zubro, David Lubman and joined by conference opener celebrated writer and broadcaster Paul Devereux. It was both an honour to be amongst this wealth of knowledge and humbling to be accepted as a peer. Amongst highlights including field work methodologies and arcahaeocoustics case studies and site observations was a presentation from PHd student of Goldsmiths College, Annie Goh. Annie has turned anthropology in on itself to study the subject and the researchers of archaeoacoustics itself. I look forward to reading her published output. The Scots were well represented at this years conference with myself, Keith Harvey and PHD archaeologist Michelle Walker all representing the University of the Highlands and Islands.
There was also within this rarefied bubble of intellectual stimulation a realisation that this data and findings be made meaningful to the public. Several of the presentations touched on this idea and brought to mind the Re-Imagining Space project.
The conference included field trips and further presentations by in the field archaeologists and museum curators and academics. We were also treated to a surprise visit by Professor Chris Scarre co-editor of the first archaeoacoustics conference proceedings at Cambridge University in 2003, Chris also coined the term 'archaeoacoustics'. There was art inspired by culture, heritage and sound design, performances both impromptu and organised and all was a marvel. Portugal is beautiful and we will be back. Thank you again Linda Eneix and Josette Linda's unsung hero in the background.
I will continue to follow up these musings as they inspire me.
On the 18th of July 2017 I was granted access to Skara Brae structure 7 recreation located just 50 metres from the actual site. I spent about an hour there taking in the atmosphere and making several recordings, The first a B-format compatible surround recording a W,X,Y technique, the second a guerilla IR recording using the usual balloon pop and a mobile PCM recorder. and finally a series of recordings sat at the fire pit of rythm's playing rocks and drift wood sticks, Neolithic 'rock' music. Skara Brae is located on Skaill Bay beach on the North West of main Orcadian Island of North Ronaldsay, a stunning location.
The boat was used by a small crew to cross the Pentland Firth. Despite scepticism that it would not make the crossing, the crew not only succeeded but did it well under the time estimated. The Pentland Firth is famously a difficult sea sound with cross currents and whirl pools.
Have been on Orkney for the last 5 days, first time! So far visited the Ring of Brodgar, the dig at the Ness of Brodgar and Skara Brae. Site visits to Viking and Pictish settlements have also been on the itinerary. Whilst at the Ness I was fortunate enough to meet the site director Nick Card during a public open day at the dig site. Although very busy on the day Nick was able to share a few insights and we had the chance to meet site artist in residence and one of the geologists.
The neolithic style hide boat that was used in the BBC documentary about the Neolithic culture and how the people got to the mainland as well as between the islands of the Orkney archipeligo was also on display at the Ness. The boat the result of an archaeology PHD students research was successfully rowed across the Pentland Firth during the BBC filming.
I have been granted access to Skara Brae after hours to do some recording on site. A summary to follow, bot so far these islands have not let us down.
The Wemyss Caves trust (SWACS) in collaboration with research teams with laser mapping, archaeological, geological and local historians have created a stunning 3D visualisation of the site. The coastline view features a time line which shows the the coast as it probably looked in Pictish times, Medieval, turn of the 20th century and modern day. Each cave is virtually explorable and the carvings can be analysed in detail.
I have plans for repeat visits to the site in the summer months of this year to hopefully do additional auralisation recordings and documenting the site visit in higher resolution film than previous visits.
I was hugely flattered by an email communique last week from Linda Eneix, the chair and motivating force behind the Old Temples Study Foundation and the last 3 international Arcahaeoacoustics conferences. I was emailing Linda a link to my website and blog. A day later Linda responded asking me why archaeoacoustics was ahead of the curve in this field and did she think I had anything to do with! I was very flattered but my humble response being that while I am an advocate for this subject area of research, I can not be help responsible for an parent nationwide upturn in research interest.
Having said that of 3 papers all being presented at the next international conference, my own among them. I have consulted with Michelle Walker, an archaeology student on her PHD project regarding field recording methodologies, another paper presentation comes from one of my own undergraduate students who undertook a mammoth research project recording in nearly all of the cathedrals on the UK mainland. As well as these I am consulting with another PHD student Shona McGill, University of Glasgow, regarding her proposed field recording of IRs in Fingal's Cave.
Linda discussed in her email that she was hoping that towards the end of the next conference that an approach towards a standardised methodology can be discussed and that my own experience, research and practices are presented. Linda and I also discussed our love of the island archipelago of Malta and the fact that it was through the first conference that I discovered and fell in love with this tiny mediterranean island and have returned 3 times since. Linda has been going and conducting tours nearly annually since the mid nineties!
A few thoughts regarding the field of archaeoacoustics. Having conjectured about this recently I believe that the study of archaeological soundscapes and acoustics has emerged from a pseudo science into a fully fledged field of study going hand in hand with the emergence of digital technologies. When author Paul Devereux coined the term in the 70's the subject was of niche interest and a footnote to archaeology based more on physical artifacts and visual observations. However as digital processing technologies have advanced and become ever more complex and sophisticated the potential we now find and the possible emergence of VR technologies is and will continue to advance this into a serious field of scientific analysis. Creativity and imagination still play a large part in our re-imagining of our past and the multi-sensory experiences of their environment our ancestors enjoyed. Indeed I once wrote in a paper that early paleolithic cave dwellers in caves such as those found at Chauvet in the South of France may have been the equivalent of the modern day i-Max cinema. As fires illuminated the cave art they created of various indigenous animals and made them "dance" one can imagine chanting and if not drumming in a conventional sense, then percussion and chanting may have played an equally important part in creating a multi-sensory experience of transcendence.
The AES Scotland conference in association with JAMES, "Acoustics in Creative Spaces" was a great success. The first time the AES Scotland has taken part in an event outside of Edinburgh or Glasgow. For a Monday night right after a 2 week holiday the conference was well attended with 70 in the Goodlyburn studio theatre and many current students and some alumni, as well as industry professionals and students from other institutions.
Unfortunately due to injury Dennis Weinreich was unable to attend in the end, however the evening was suitably padded out by the attendant presenters. Melvyn Toms presented a history and evolution of Abbey Road's largest orchestral studio 1, Melvyn has been the technical adviser at Abbey Road for 35 years. John, Peter and Jamie from Studio People presented a varied discussion around acoustics and creative environment design with Jamie closing with an inspired talk on motivating creativity. Between these I presented a talk about archaeoacoustics, what it is, a little back ground, field work methodologies for IR capture and 2 case studies from recent field recording trips.
The event was well organised, attended and a special mention has to go to my co presenters, David and Monica from AES Scotland, my musical theatre and sound production students. Also bug thanks to my manager Lorenz and college vice principal Pam Wilson.
Presenters below from L - R; Melvyn Toms, JAMES/Abbey Road, Jamie, Peter and John, Studio People, myself, Perth College UHI.