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Hearing the past through our ancestors’ ears

Posted on 9 September 2011

Researchers in audio and acoustics from the University of York will take centre stage in a radio programme which will examine how scientists are re-creating the sounds of the past next week.

Dr Damian Murphy, of the University’s Department of Electronics, who is recreating the sound of choral music in the original Coventry Cathedral before it was bombed in 1940, will feature in the programme Hearing the Past on BBC Radio 4.

It is part of a major research project that brings together a diverse group of scientists, engineers, sound archivists, museum curators and sound artists. The initial project, led by Dr Murphy and Jude Brereton, also of the Department of Electronics, was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The programme is presented by broadcaster and physicist, Professor Jim Al-Khalili who investigates how latest research in acoustics is helping us to recreate authentic sounds of the past. It is changing the way we study history and experience tourist attractions. It is also helping us to improve the acoustic design of future buildings.

He discovers how architects of modern concert venues are learning lessons from the layout of Stonehenge. He also finds out how acoustic design goes far beyond just making our buildings sound good, in some cases it can save lives.

The programme features a virtual version of the National Centre for Early Music created by Jude Brereton in the AudioLab Listening Room facility on York Science Park. With the virtual acoustic system switched on, a musician, can perform and hear themselves as if they are actually in the Early Music Centre, and Jude Brereton performs a piece of 17th century recorder music in the virtual NCEM on the programme.

Hearing the Past will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 11 am on Monday 12 September. It will also be available via the Radio 4 website ( as well as being selected as BBC Radio 4’s Documentary of the Week. 

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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