Accessibility statement
May 2016 - July 2017

Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays

Dr Mariana Lopez

How might recreations of 15th and 16th century soundscapes affect performances of the York Mystery Plays?

A photograph from the performance of the Mystery Plays featuring 3 actors on top of a wagon acting out a scene from the plays.

The York Mystery Plays are a series of plays that narrate events of relevance to the Christian faith and were performed regularly from the late fourteenth century up to 1569 on wagons in the streets of York, a tradition revived in 1994. Research into the staging and performance decisions of these historic productions has paid little attention to acoustic considerations, mostly focusing on theoretical or textual analyses instead.

However, sound recreations are the only means by which sound interaction and its effects on perception can be understood. As a result, this project uses digital audio technologies to recreate York's 15th and 16th century soundscapes.The recreated soundscapes will include elements of the narrative (speech, music, sound effects), sound resulting from the performance (wagons, audiences) and those that were external (weather conditions, bells).

Modern aural considerations will also be investigated through the collection of oral histories of organisers, performers and audiences, in order to establish parallels between the medieval and modern experiences, allowing us to highlight the value of medieval studies in the modern world.

‘The Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays’ is funded by the British Academy and you can find out more about the Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays project here.