Accepted paper:

Songs from the void


Aaron Watson
John Crewdson (Royal Holloway University of London)

Paper short abstract:

‘Songs from the Void’ is a multimedia performance that draws upon sound and vision-based research conducted at Neolithic monuments.

Paper long abstract:

The Neolithic 'sound-world' was transformed by the construction of monuments. Acoustic characterisation of open and enclosed sites, such as Stonehenge and Maeshowe, has revealed that they possess a rich spectrum of audible properties; echoes, resonance, filtering. These structures offered unique acoustic environments, and might even be considered as instruments in their own right. The potential for monuments to generate rich and theatrical multisensory experiences compels us to explore these possibilities through audio-visual compositions. Their creation encompasses time-based media such as sound, video and animation, challenging the static, two-dimensional, and silent representations which pervade archaeological publication. They also focus attention upon qualities of sites which would be otherwise be unheard, or overlooked, by traditional fieldwork methods. Our multimedia compositions are not attempts to reconstruct how Neolithic people would have seen or heard their monuments. Rather, they offer a present-day dialogue between acoustic measurement and archaeological interpretation which considers how monuments can be actively manipulated to generate powerful multisensory experiences. Critically, the performance of these experiences supersedes the sensory limitations of printed media, allowing an audience to be immersed within soundscapes which are both heard and felt. 'Songs from the Void' is a performance that draws upon sound and vision-based research conducted by the authors at a number of prehistoric monuments.

panel S37
Artefact to auditorium: aural agendas in the archaeology of prehistoric sound (partly supported by the AHRC ‘Beyond Text’ program)