A historic space ‘sings’ once more

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to resume use of Istanbul’s Byzantine-era cathedral, Hagia Sophia, as a mosque, ending an 86-year period in which it was a museum, provoked an international outcry. One consequence of the conversion of the 1,500-year-old structure for Islamic prayer is dampening of the vast interior’s singular acoustics.

The New York Times’ Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim reports on efforts by Stanford University art historian Bissera Pentcheva and Jonathan Abel, a Stanford colleague working at the university’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, to electronically replicate the complex reverberance of choral music that was created when Hagia Sophia was the center of Orthodox Christianity.

The work of Pentcheva and Abel led to a recording, “Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia,” by Cappella Romana, a Portland, OR-based ensemble led by Alexander Lingas, that presents Byzantine liturgical music as it’s believed to have sounded in the medieval cathedral. Samples of this remarkable venture in musical archaeology are included with the article:

“Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia,” on CD plus Blu-Ray discs or in several digital file formats, may be ordered from: http://cappellaromana.org/product/lost-voices-of-hagia-sophia-medieval-byzantine-chant/

Tracks from the recording also may be heard on YouTube.

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