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A virtual acoustic map, for the Cultivation of the Capacity to Listen.


Acoustic Atlas invites people to sing and emit sound into virtual acoustic heritage environments. In turn each space answers with its unique echo and resonances. The voice reveals the interior form and texture of these heritage sites.

You are invited to explore this website to understand the context and research aims of Acoustic Atlas. The 'Experience' page is where you will find the virtual acoustic web application. For this it is best to wear headphones. Here are a few additional explanations.

Why enable my device’s microphone? Your microphone feed will be played into virtual simulations of heritage sites. This will allow you to sing/project sounds into the virtual site to hear your echoes and experience being there, through sound. Rest assured that only you can hear it. This website can not record your voice, not even temporarily. Instead the audio processing happens locally on your device. If you like to record a cave song or cathedral song, you can use the record function in the sound controls and save this audio to your device. Else it automatically is erased when you close the window.

Why is it better to listen via headphones? Because of the active microphone input, it can cause a feedback loop and result in very loud noise which is mostly undesirable.

The Experience User Interface

Globe UI: a single mouse click will zoom closer to the location. A doubble mouse click will take you to the interior view of the selected location.

Bottom Control buttons Click on the bottom left 'throw-the-dice'button to travel to the next random location OR use the search tab to search for a specific locations, or category i.e. 'cathedral' or 'cave', or country i.e. 'italy'.

Once inside a location you will find various tiny control buttons at the bottom of the screen.

These include from left to right: 'Random', 'Search', 'Microphone Mute/Unmute', 'Reverb Wet/Dry percentage', 'Record button', 'Further listening', 'Information about acoustic measurements and location including Surveys or Floorplans where available' and 'Fullscreen'.

Most importantly: make some sound/sing/talk to hear the reverb.

Please note This is web application - doing rather complex processing in the browser! We are trying to ensure it is compatible with most browsers. If anything does not load or seem to work please try to refresh your browser. Upon second load things should be fine again. If not, please get in touch with the research team.

About the project aims The fellowship aims to focus and promote heritage acoustics both locally (by recording natural UK sites) and globally (by creating a tool that researchers worldwide can use and apply to related work).

Within the Marie S Curie fellowship at the University of York, UK nature sites including Dowkerbottom Cave, Ingleborough Cave and Victoria Cave are investigated and recorded. The recovery of the acoustics of these caves is particularly important in terms of their archaeological, geological and acoustic information. From a scientific point of view, many caves are time capsules, with flora, fauna, bacteria, minerals and fossils that hold treasures from an immensely large timescale compared to human life on earth.

Additionally caves present themselves as archives for understanding peoples’ mythological landscapes and how they have evolved. Victoria Cave produced prominent artifacts, including evidence of the first humans in the Dales starting in 12,500 BC. All three caves present repeated evidence throughout the centuries of mortuary activities indicating that people used the Dales caves to mediate with the spirit world. By the Romano-British, AD 100 to 450 period, various Roman military accoutrements were found around Ingleborough Cave and the inside of Victoria Cave was used as a shrine and there was a workshop area outside.

Previous archaeoacoustic research has pointed out that our ancestors would have interpreted sounds such as echoes as supernatural phenomena and the voices of spirits. Both Yordas Cave and Ingleborough Cave have connecting shafts and tunnels to neighboring caves, with the possibility of producing such echoes and coupling phenomena. All of this contributes to making these sites excellent case studies for bridging scientific and archaeological research with sound art. The historical evidence provides inspiration for connecting past with present, whilst the acoustic characteristics are compelling compositional material.

The main artistic action is the creation of a series of novel listening experiences that are connected to each studied cave. It allows for ‘virtual acoustic travel’ to these natural sites where people can interact, listen and create music with the acoustics of each space. The experience has various layers: the realtime live acoustic feedback from the listener’s mic input, another layer of field recordings of environmental sounds belonging to each site.

Sound reveals space in an audio-tactile way that adds tremendous depth to our sense of corporeal presence and spatial awareness in any chosen environment. As our lives continue to expand into digital domains it is crucial that our digital ability to ‘listen’, as well as our awareness of the processes that shape this listening experience, are equally expanded.