This session explores the history, interface and development within and between the ‘arts’ and ‘sciences’ in our understanding, (re)construction and consumption of prehistoric music and musical composition inspired by prehistory.
The archaeology of prehistoric music has made a useful contribution to our understanding of prehistoric society. But with few surviving musical artefacts or depictions and no manuscripts, the subject has been vulnerable to ‘open’ interpretations and cross-cultural analogies or stereotypes by archaeologists and researchers such as (palaeo-) musicologists or (palaeo-) psychologists and composers or performers who have been inspired by prehistory. More creative and humanistic musical interpretations nevertheless have the power to inspire and unite people in contemporary society, whilst new scientific methods of reconstruction, such as archaeo-acoustics, can enlighten us about musical heritage and daily life in prehistoric society. This session will explore the often complementary relationship between the ‘art’ and the ‘science’ of prehistoric sound and music. It will question why prehistoric music reconstructions and compositions inspired by prehistory are represented in the manner and style we hear today. What has led to the representation of prehistoric music; how do we understand the acoustic properties, tone and sound aesthetics of prehistoric instruments and performance spaces; how might we approach understanding the performative in prehistoric societies?; and why are particular forms of music and sound represented in classical and contemporary composition and performance rather than others? In short, what are the knowledge sources, influences and constraints behind the music that is popularised as a reflection of prehistoric sound organisation and wider prehistoric society? AHRC Beyond Text funding may be available to potential contributors, especially PhD candidates, interested in presenting a paper in this session as well as a practice or performance based contribution at a public event and workshop in Edinburgh during April/May 2011.