The Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays: : Playing with Medieval Sonic Histories

Mariana Julieta Lopez, Marques Hardin, Wenqi Wan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The York Mystery Plays are a series of plays that were performed from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century in the streets of York (UK) using wagons specifically constructed for the occasion. The “sound” of the York Mystery Plays is as crucial to their history as the visual aspects linked to staging. However, aspects on acoustics and soundscapes are often difficult to convey to nonspecialist audiences. The present chapter discusses how strategies found in digital games and simulations have been combined with specialist knowledge on acoustical heritage, soundscape recreation, and medieval drama to create the online interface The Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays. Users are able to combine dialogue and music with acoustical data as well as add sound effects linked to the history of the medieval city of York to create their own experience of the plays, allowing them to listen to what the plays could have sounded like, while also assessing how those experiences are still relevant to modern organizers and performers by accessing bespoke interviews. The interface also explores how digital gaming and simulation experiences can help overcome the ethical challenges of presenting one version of the sounds of the past, by introducing multiple possible acoustical experiences, which present the rich array of possible sonic histories linked to the York Mystery Plays.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching the Middle Ages through Modern Games
Subtitle of host publicationUsing, Modding and Creating Games for Education and Impact
EditorsRobert Houghton
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9783110712032
ISBN (Print)9783110711967, 9783111521374
Publication statusPublished - 24 Oct 2022

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