Wednesday, August 5, 2020

How a Historian Stuffed Hagia Sophia’s Sound Into a Studio

By Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim
Hagia Sophia’s rededication as a Muslim place of worship, after decades as a museum, threatens to cloak its extravagantly reverberant acoustics. Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times
Footage broadcast around the world  captured some of these striking changes to Hagia Sophia, the Byzantine cathedral in Istanbul, which served as a mosque under Ottoman rule before becoming a museum in 1934. On the orders of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is now once again used as a mosque. But for a group of scholars, scientists and musicians, Hagia Sophia’s rededication as a Muslim place of worship threatens to cloak a less tangible treasure: its sound. Bissera Pentcheva, an art historian at Stanford University and an expert in the burgeoning field of acoustic archaeology, has spent the past decade studying the building’s extravagantly reverberant acoustics to reconstruct the sonic world of Byzantine cathedral music. Ms. Pentcheva argues that Hagia Sophia’s mystical brilliance reveals itself fully only if it is viewed as a vessel for animated light — and sound. [More