£3.5m project to record ancient music

Music from the ancient world – from the Stone Age to the Romans – will be recreated and recorded as part of a £3.5 million European Music Archaeology Project.

A team of researchers throughout Europe who have devised the project, hoping to seek a common European musical heritage rooted in antiquity. Using a wide range of evidence – including archaeological survivals and ancient pictures – the European Music Archaeology Project researchers will attempt to reconstruct primitive musical instruments from as long ago as 40,000 BC and as “recently” as 400 AD. Specialist performers will then experiment with the recreated instruments and reach conclusions about the type of music that was played on them.

Dr Rupert Till of the University of Huddersfield will oversee the creation of a special record label, which will feature the project’s findings. “The project is not really designed to recreate ancient music as such,” he explains. “You can’t really know what music sounded like thousands of years ago. But you can produce music that demonstrates the instruments and some of the techniques used.”

Dr Till – already established as a researcher of ancient acoustics and music – was invited to join EMAP more than two years ago and he and his colleagues worked hard on an application for funding via the EU’s Cultural Programme.  The panel that scrutinised applications gave the EMAP submission 99 out of 100 points, the highest score of any of the applications for EU Culture Programme grant funding this year.

A principal goal of EMAP is to create a travelling exhibition that will display – visually and aurally – the results of the research. The multimedia touring exhibition and accompanying programme of workshops and performances which will visit ten venues in eight countries between May 2015 and November 2016.

One of Dr Till’s roles will be to direct an EMAP record label, which will issue demonstrations of the ancient instruments. His plans include visits to historic venues in Rome, Greece and Pompeii in order to make on-site recordings.

Also, he will create a “digital time machine” as part of the exhibition.

‌“You will enter this space and start with a cave in Spain, hearing a bone flute. Then perhaps you will travel to Stonehenge and see someone playing instruments there.  You will go forward in time to Greece and hear instruments played in reconstructed acoustics and spaces.”

“EMAP is going to be a high quality, high impact project and it’s expected that the exhibition will be seen by one and a half million people,” said Dr Till.

The project will finish in 2018; however, a Trust will be set up to continue the work of the project in the future.

Source: University of Huddersfield

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