Short Take: Icons of Sound

Sharon Carson 

Our thoughts are with colleagues and friends in Istanbul and Turkey this week.

Coincidentally, NDQ had planned a Short Take post for today on an intriguing project working with acoustic “spatial” reconstruction and representation of Byzantine era liturgical music in Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish).

Hagia Sophia is an astonishing structure in Istanbul, originally built as church by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th c. AD, then serving for several centuries during the Ottoman era as a mosque, and is now, since the early years of the Turkish Republic, a museum where visitors can experience the historical complexity, architectural beauty and aural intensity of a remarkable transcultural space.

For overviews, current projects and historical background for the present-day museum, here is a link to English language pages for Ayasofya website.

The digital humanities project we wanted to share with readers is: Icons of Sound: Aesthetics and Acoustics of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul.  This Stanford University collaboration between researchers in their Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics and members of Stanford’s Department of Art and Art History exemplifies interdisciplinary humanities work at its best.

Best to let the research and performance teams of Icons of Sound present their work in their own terms.

The project website also offers further explanation of the acoustic dimensions of the space, the “sound history” of Hagia Sophia as a performative location. and then they offer some hypertext jumps to a few fascinating articles.

But we recommend that you start your exploration of Icons of Sound with this short film produced for the project, in cooperation with AyaSofya Müzesi. The beauty of this acoustic and visual composition speaks for itself.


Sharon Carson, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor, Department of English, University of North Dakota 

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