During September 2016, Prof. Slobodan Dan Paich has been artist-in-residence at Art Quarter Budapest and started a collaboration with the Spatial Sound Institute and its Head of Development Paul Oomen. The project is a seed for developing Archeoacoustic experiments and reconstruction of ancient intended sanctuary soundscapes. 

Archeoacoustics is a new emerging field that examines intentional sound design elements in ancient sacred buildings and outdoor spaces. It explores instances where sound design and architectural space are inseparable and looks at sacred spaces as repositories and instruments of acoustic experiences.

Oomen and Paich started off with developing an acoustical model in 4DSOUND based on the prehistoric caves of Pech Merle in South-France. The idea to reconstruct the specific sounds of Pech Merle was inspired by the groundbreaking work of Iégor Reznikoff. The caves acoustical properties were approximated by placing twenty points in clusters spread over a virtual distance of 130 meters long. These points represent the strongest resonances as found by Reznikoff during his exploration of the natural caves. 

A virtual map of the most prominent resonant points found in the 130m long cave system of Pech Merle, La Portel in southern France. The resonant points are a spatial sonic reconstruction in 4DSOUND following the indicated locations of  resonances by Iegor Reznikoff and Michel Davois [La Dimension Sonore des Grottes Ornees]. The column structure in the middle of the map represents the physical dimensions of the 4DSOUND system as installed at the Spatial Sound Institute, Budapest, proportionate to the distances between the resonant points of the virtually reconstructed cave.

A virtual map of the most prominent resonant points found in the 130m long cave system of Pech Merle, La Portel in southern France. The resonant points are a spatial sonic reconstruction in 4DSOUND following the indicated locations of  resonances by Iegor Reznikoff and Michel Davois [La Dimension Sonore des Grottes Ornees]. The column structure in the middle of the map represents the physical dimensions of the 4DSOUND system as installed at the Spatial Sound Institute, Budapest, proportionate to the distances between the resonant points of the virtually reconstructed cave.

Then, Oomen and Paich set out to discover the cave with their voices. Over the course of several days they spent time getting to know the space by singing into it and listening to the particular reflections and resonances that the space responded. And, the cave came to embody an evolving dialogue developing between the two men, opening up the potential for human encounter and shared experience by sonically exploring space.

Archeoacustics’ role in the contemporary interdisciplinary field has a remarkable premise. In the last two centuries genetic and neuro sciences began to observe and reflect on the origins and brain's cognitive location of specific input/output for music and speech. Through the mapping of the brain, the presence of rhythm and harmony in voluntary and involuntary human responses to the world and each other became experimentally recognized. Archeoacoustics potentially corroborates by traces of the ancientness of the human need for, and involvement with, the phenomena of sound in their inherent relation to the environment.

The considerations and questions set forth by the field of Archeoacoustics in general, and by the work of Prof. Paich specifically, include a proposition of ancient men as differently cultured, ingénues and refined rather than primitive. The collaboration started in Budapest contributes to further definition of the open hypothesis that has been centrally investigated at the Spatial Sound Institute. This hypothesis, as elaborated upon in this article, proposes that spatial sound represents a key evolutionary step in the development of our cognitive capacities and our ability to express increasingly complex ideas by means of space.

Oomen and Paich hope to further elaborate on the evolving results of their collaboration during the Third International Multi-disciplinary Conference on The Archaeology of Sound, to be held at The Polytechnic Institute of Tomar, 05 - 08 October 2017, Tomar, Portugal