I received various notes about a brief clip on NPR about the making of a recording of Byzantine chant in a virtual, digital, recreation of the interior Hagia Sophia. Somehow they were able to recreate a virtual interior of Hagia Sophia using the sound of a bursting balloon. Then they filled that virtual interior with the chant, thus re-producing the acoustic effect for the listeners within the enormous building.
As Clarke quipped, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
I have the album. Unreal.
Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia
The music group has game: Cappella Romana. WOW.
The liturgical chant they record is for the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September, introduced in 628.
How to understand what the liturgical experience would have been within Hagia Sophia? Today, chanting is forbidden within. It had to be digitally recreated.
For those of you in Columbia Heights, Hagia Sophia – Wisdom of God – was/is the mighty Byzantine cathedral, then a mosque, then a museum, built in Constantinople at the orders of the Emperor Justinian. It is quite simply enormous. The dome is higher than all the great, soaring Gothic churches, 56.6m from the floor, and 31.87 in diameter. The church has 255,800 cubic meters of space, covered in marble. The reverb is 12 seconds. The space was designed to create a waterfall of resonant sound, mirroring the book-matching, opened marble sheets on the walls which resemble waves of water. Just as layers of colors are used in icons to convey deeper realities, so in sound an icon is created. The sound and building harmonics go to where the human ear can barely reach, to omphe, Greek word meaning a voice beyond human register, thus a divine voice, which rises like axes to the dome to form a cascade back down to the floor, reflecting, like the bright gold mosaics reflect light.
Not too shabby. Take in that balloon pop!