Hearing the past in the present: an augmented reality approach to site reconstruction through architecturally informed new music

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Hearing the past in the present proposes a new approach towards experiencing the acoustic qualities of historic architecture. The key to this approach lies in the bespoke way artistic processes are linked to architectural site data, rather than the measurement technologies themselves that inform this research. Methods are proposed that help create a tighter bond between musical composition and the data obtained from architectural sites in such a way that is both evidence-based and yet not inhibitory of creative decisions. A sense of ‘time-travel’ is rejected, in favour of treating the past and present as intermingled layers and enabling critical thinking on the part of the audience. This chapter documents this rationale, and its application to a series of vocal music works, The Architexture Series (Field 2020a) made specifically for heritage venues. It shows how contemporary Augmented Reality (AR) techniques can be leveraged to deliver a purposeful layering of historical discovery and new experience within the audio domain. These techniques are harnessed in an unusual way: rather than adding over-laid information layers to be ‘observed’, an environment is created where the responsibility to think creatively about space is shifted to the audience through a tightly coupled network of creative process and architectural evidence. The issues of connecting musical process with heritage sites, of creating engagement without superficiality, and of reconstructing an acoustic environment which is no longer present through the application of interdisciplinary research are discussed with a view to understanding if creativity can shed light, in an evidence-based manner, on the past.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic and Heritage
Subtitle of host publicationNew Perspectives on Place-making and Sonic Identity
EditorsJohn Schofield, Liam Maloney
PublisherTaylor & Francis
ISBN (Print)9780367741037
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2021


  • AR, Music, Site Specific Composition, Augmented Reality

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