Copyright 2005-2015 University of Salford Mon, 21 Jan 2013 00:00:00 +0000 Computing, Science and Engineering at the University of Salford, UK CSE News CSE News 100 100 (Louise Heatley) en-gb Songs of Caves

Songs of Caves: Acoustics and prehistoric art in Cantabrian Caves

This project will explore the acoustics of prehistoric painted caves in Northern Spain, to establish whether a secure relationship can be established between the positioning of painted motifs and sonic effects within the caves. Sound has the potential in many fields of archaeology to provide information that is not available by studying visual or material properties. This project is of particular interest since the documented presence of rock art and the acoustic characteristics of the spaces in which the paintings were made, provide two sets of quantifiable data that can be compared and whose relationships can be analysed.

Reznikoff and Dauvois (1988) have suggested a specific link between the positioning of cave paintings in southwest France and the patterning of acoustic resonances, reverberation and echoes. However the methodology used was not based on rigorous acoustical analysis, but was somewhat subjective, researchers using their voices to search for vocal effects. The present project would be the first attempt to test their theory using a rigorous scientific methodology. The project will involve travel to the UNESCO world heritage site "Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain", where a group of caves includes the oldest dated cave painting in the world, recently identified as 41,000 years old.

A preliminary investigation carried out by members of the team in the summer of 2012 involved visits to a number of the caves, the taking of exploratory measurements, and trialling of different methodologies. Sites included Tito Bustillo, Monte Castillo, Pasiega, Chimneas, and the recently discovered La Garma. This work made clear that the acoustic effects are as impressive as the cave paintings. There were tantalizing spatial connections between images and sounds, but a frustrating lack of time or funding prevented their full investigation. Practical issues have subsequently been explored and relationships developed between British and Spanish researchers which now make possible a more thorough exploration of these phenomena.

The project will systematically map the acoustics of the caves, recording impulse responses that can later be analysed to produce a range of acoustic information. This will then be compared with the already mapped positions of rock art. This is a cross-disciplinary project in which the new research lies in the combination of scientific, archaeological and musical methodologies, rather than in advances in any one of these fields. The project is Arts and Humanities-led, using state of the art acoustic technologies to make discoveries about music, sound, archaeology, heritage and prehistoric culture. The project will also provide a case study to illustrate the quality and significance of the results that can be achieved by such research. The project was born as a direct result of networking established through the "Acoustics and Music of British Prehistory Science and Heritage Research Cluster" (2009), which established base-line methodologies and research questions for fieldwork of this kind. The current project intends to apply these methodologies within a specific archaeological context of high potential. Acoustic effects in the caves will be assessed quantitatively using statistical software to establish whether there are significant links between positions of cave art and acoustic effects. The project will also involve the recording of performances in the caves on experimental archaeological reproductions of musical instruments from the relevant prehistoric period, in order to explore the acoustics of the space in qualitative terms. It will also involve photographic survey and high quality digital video footage to provide high impact dissemination. Musical composition will use recordings and impulse responses, and be integrated with visual materials to create immersive multimedia artworks that can provide phenomenological experiences of spaces that are sonically rich.

The project is led by Rupert Til from Huddersfield

Mon, 21 Jan 2013 00:00:00 +0000
Prof on Dara O Briain's Science Club

In final episode of the science series, Dara O Briain and his crack team took a weird and wonderful look at the science behind music.Dara was joined in the studio by acoustics expert Professor Trevor Cox from the University of Salford and music psychologist Dr Alexandra Lamont. Special guest James May explored how music is inextricably linked to our emotions, materials scientist Mark Miodownik took apart an electric guitar and neuroscientist Tali Sharot reported on the ground breaking research which treats Parkinson's Disease with rhythm. Plus, science journalist Alok Jha asked whether computers are ruining music. See on BBC IPlayer

Wed, 02 Jan 2013 00:00:00 +0000
College of Science and Technolgy Undergraduate Open Day

Learn about our specialist courses in the Schools of the Built Environment, Computing, Science & Engineering and Environment & Life Sciences. Meet the staff, tour our facilities and find out more about the University over coffee and mince pies.

Book a place...

Mon, 10 Dec 2012 00:00:00 +0000
Trevor Cox presents on BBC Radio

In 1945, Benjamin Britten wrote The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, showing off the instruments of the orchestra in a short film. Viewers are taken through each section of the orchestra accompanied by a narration which describes the different sound quality of instruments: 'Clarinets ... make a beautifully smooth, mellow sound', flutes have a 'sweet voice' and the oboe has a 'plaintive quality.'

Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford, looks at the physics behind the way orchestral instruments produce their unique sound. How is the sound produced, and how much does the material from which the instrument is made affect the sound?

Trevor talks to scientists who have studied musical instruments - David Sharp from the Open University, Mike Newton at Edinburgh University and Jim Woodhouse of Cambridge University. And members of the BBC Philharmonic provide the players' perspective

Available on iplayer until 12 December

Fri, 07 Dec 2012 00:00:00 +0000
Sound Map of Britain

Members of the public are invited to use the project app on their iPhone, iPad or any digital recorder to record short audio clips from different environments - such as a local park or a street - and upload them to add to the soundscape map with their opinion on how it makes them feel and why they recorded it.

Just head to the website on an Apple device and click the iSAY app link or search for “isay” from the app store.

The study aims to get a better understanding of what gives a place 'character' and how opinions and attitudes to sound environments vary.

PhD student Charlie Mydlarz, who is leading the study, explains: "We're asking people to record the sound of any environment they choose, and that includes both public and private spaces, so recordings could capture anything from a family car journey to a busy shopping centre.

"And by using everyday technology to get people involved, this has the potential to be the largest study of its kind. We'll be producing the first ever sound map purely for research purposes - the findings of which could have far reaching uses from psychological research to town planning."

While existing studies tend to focus on volume, with loud assumed noisy and undesirable and quiet as desirable, this study will investigate the idea that there is no such thing as 'noise', simply sound that is out-of-place or context.

For example, the sound of a busy street and shouting voices may be unpleasant and out-of-place in a quiet residential area but is an essential part of the 'atmosphere' and personality of a market.

Sound, especially in urban areas, is an increasingly important issue, as recent debates about potential noise levels from a third runway at Heathrow demonstrate. While there are many bodies concerned with how our environments look – how they sound has, until recently, often been overlooked.

With more people living in cities, urban areas being redesigned and new technologies such as electric or hybrid cars offering the potential for quieter streets, there is a need to reassess our understanding of 'noise'.

This sound map of Britain could be useful in a variety of ways, for example, for urban planners or people checking out an area ahead of buying a house.

In raising awareness of how our sound environment influences us, researchers hope that participants will embrace a new 'language of sound'. For example, rather than 'landmarks' and 'landscapes' we might describe distinctive features of our sound environment or 'soundscapes', as 'soundmarks' and value them as highly as an attractive country vista or dramatic urban skyline.

You can keep up with developments in the project on the Sounds Around You Twitter page.

Mon, 19 Nov 2012 00:00:00 +0000