Conference PaperPDF Available

Exploring Aural Architecture: Experience, Resonance, Attunement


Abstract and Figures

This research project aimed to established connections between aural architecture and archaeoacoustics. It explored a methodology to create ancient acoustic effects nowadays, and to study the human affective experience of it. The project experimented the design of aural architecture as a communication channel through the language of vibration, to open up a gaping moment in spacetime and a resonant dialogue between inside and outside worlds, or what has been described as mind-body experiences. The methodology included techniques of sensory variation and resonant design based in energetic geometry. It addressed a qualitative study of the affective experience of acoustic phenomena, which is less developed than quantitative study and would benefit from further experimentation. The experiment created a public experience of resonance and attunement, to observe its results with a survey.
Content may be subject to copyright.
126 | P a g e A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I
Exploring Aural Architecture:
Experience, Resonance, Attunement
Cláudia Martinho
CLÁUDIA MARTINHO, PhD in Music - Sonic Arts (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK), is an architect
(FAUP, University of Porto, Portugal), with a Master of Science and Technology in Architectural Acoustics
(UPMC, Paris, France).
ABSTRACT: This research project aimed to established connections between aural architecture and
archaeoacoustics. It explored a methodology to create ancient acoustic effects nowadays, and to study
the human affective experience of it. The project experimented the design of aural architecture as a
communication channel through the language of vibration, to open up a gaping moment in spacetime
and a resonant dialogue between inside and outside worlds, or what has been described as mind-body
experiences. The methodology included techniques of sensory variation and resonant design based in
energetic geometry. It addressed a qualitative study of the affective experience of acoustic phenomena,
which is less developed than quantitative study and would benefit from further experimentation. The
experiment created a public experience of resonance and attunement, to observe its results with a survey.
KEYWORDS: aural architecture, mind-body experiences, resonance frequencies
his paper reports on a practice-lead
research project, entitled Passage
(2017). It explored aural architecture design
methods for the transformation of the
acoustic space experience through reso-
nance and attunement, a technique known
to our ancestors. The term aural refers to the
human experience of a sonic process, and
aural architecture refers to the properties of
space that can be experienced through
listening (Blesser and Salter 2007, 2-5).
This project aimed to establish connexions
between aural architecture and archaeo-
acoustics, by the experimentation of
possible manifestations of ancient acoustic
effects nowadays, with the purpose of
studying the human affective experience of
it. Acoustic effects are largely studied with
the aid of mathematical and computational
models (acoustic ray tracing prediction,
electroencephalography), providing
important data for the advancements of
archaeoacoustic studies. However, the
qualitative study of the affective experience
of acoustic phenomena is less developed
and would benefit from further
experimentation. In this sense, the results of
this experiment were observed through
public’s experience with a survey. This ap-
proach may provide a line of relevant re-
search on human affect of acoustic
phenomena, which could complement and
enrich others, constituting an additional
An affective phenomenon has been
described as something that is felt without
registering consciously, registering only its
effects (Massumi 2008, 4). Therefore cul-
tural and social aspects were not relevant in
this study. Affect was approached as an
instinctive human reaction, as primary, non-
A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I 127 | P a g e
conscious and intensive (Massumi 2002,
27). Affect is linked to the experience of
attunement. Attunement has been described
by various disciplines (music, cognitive sci-
ence, philosophy of science, physics and
psychology) and is linked to sympathetic vi-
bration, resonance and entrainment. This
project approached attunement as a phe-
nomenon based in sympathetic resonance
that affects the quality of that experience.
The project aimed to experiment ways to
trigger an innate capacity of attunement
(Morton 2014) to self, other beings, and the
environment. Creative design was engaged
to discover applications of specific acoustic
qualities, to understand how its physical and
psychic experience could influence behav-
iour. The emphasis was on the exploration
of the aural experience as an ecological
and/or spiritual relationship with the sur-
rounding environment. The experiment fo-
cused on the physicality of resonance and
vibrational force, linked to the corporeality
of environmental sound, enhanced by
space’s acoustics. The purpose was to ex-
plore how an aural architecture experience
may act as a communication channel,
towards what has been described in the field
of archaeoacoustics as mind-body
Aural Architecture
and Archaeoacoustics
Physical acoustics and aural architecture,
while directly related, have profoundly dif-
ferent emphases. The former uses a scien-
tific language to describe the way in which
spatial acoustics changes attributes of
sound waves, while the latter considers the
experiences and behaviour of inhabitants in
a space. One emphasizes discrete measure-
ment and modelling, while the other ex-
plores a complex interactive phenomenon.
(Blesser and Salter 2007)
According to acoustician Barry Blesser and
environmental psychologist Ruth-Linda
Salter, aural architecture focus on the way
that listeners experience space (Blesser and
Salter 2007, 2-5). Any environment, natural
or built, generates an aural architecture.
Every space has an aural architecture. It is
the attributes of a space, such as surfaces,
objects, materials and geometries that will
determine its specific acoustic aspects. And
it is the human experience of that space that
determinates its aural qualities. The acous-
tic cues orientate our navigation but provide
also sensory stimulus which define the
space’s aural specificity and influence our
associations and moods. The fields of ar-
chaeoacoustics and aural architecture share
similar aspects, and perhaps common meth-
odological points. Both are multidiscipli-
nary fields, and may require knowledge
from archaeology, architecture, acoustics,
neuroscience, cognitive science, philosophy
of science, sound design, musicology, an-
thropology. The difference is that one per-
tains with the past and the other with present
and future. This aural architecture research
project was based in a knowledge of the
past, to act in present with ecological forms
of experience and contribute for a sustaina-
ble planning of the future.
The aural qualities of a space are recognized
by the human being since pre-history.
Several ancient sites of different cultures
provide evidence on the importance of
sound and acoustics for ancient civiliza-
tions. Musical instruments or sound-
producing devices (Lund 1981, 246) were
found in ancient sites which indicate sound
timbres and frequency spectres. But we do
not know exactly what the ancient cultural
forms of experience were like, its rituals,
music, dances, rhythms and melodies.
Nevertheless, we do know that particular
resonance frequencies are found in ancient
sites, with similar acoustic effects and
affects. There are also evidences that
natural phenomena (rain, thunder) and the
elements (water, air, earth, fire) were
important for ancient cultures, and most of
128 | P a g e A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I
the time associated with supernatural forces
of creation. In fact, a large number of acous-
tic effects has been reported. These include:
particular resonance frequencies at
prehistoric sites such as Lascaux cave (c.
15000 BC), France, at megalithic chambers
such as Newgrange (c. 3200 BC), Ireland,
and at excavated temples such as the Oracle
Room at Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum (c. 3300-
3000 BC) in Malta, Europe; reverberant
chambers inside or beneath pyramids such
as the Pyramid of Djoser, Saqqara (c.2667-
2648 BC) or the Great Pyramid of Giza (c.
2580-2560 BC) in Egypt, the Pyramid of the
Sun in Teotihuacan (c. 200 AD), Mexico;
reverberant ceremonial kivas in Native
America such as Anasazi kiva at Aztec (c.
1100AD), New Mexico; infrastructures of
reverberant water channels such as Chavin
De Huantar (c.900-200 BC) in Peru;
chirped echo of El Castillo pyramid of Chi-
chén Itzá in Mexico; acoustic design for
sonic amplification in Palenque (c. 675) in
Mexico (Zalaquett et al., 2008); to more
recent temples such as the Charola of
Convento de Cristo, Knights’ Temple
(1520) in Tomar, Portugal, the Whispering
Gallery of St. Paul’s Cathedral (1697) in
London, England. Archaeoacoustics re-
search of sound behaviour in ancient places
of different eras and cultures has revealed
that our ancestors used spaces with very
particular resonant qualities, most likely to
enhance ritual-based experiences.
While the primordials of aural architecture
might have resulted from unplanned acous-
tic accidents, it certainly resulted as the
origin of inspiration for intentional aural ar-
chitecture constructions, from which has
emerged knowledge and cognitive frame-
works on universal geometry. Universal
geometry became an important tool in
architecture to integrate in its design rela-
tionship between sound, light, shape, fre-
quencies, vibrational patterns, waves’
propagation, acoustic effects. Universal ge-
ometry was implied in architectural design
until the 19th century. It devised very
particular acoustic qualities to the
experience of space and involved a deep
knowledge on its consequences. However,
this universal knowledge has been lost in
most of current architectural practice. Since
the advent of the industrialisation in the 19th
century, architecture became standardised.
Until that time, architecture integrated the
knowledge of acoustics. Architects
designed based in the relations between
geometry, materials density, spatial
proportions, acoustic effects and the human
multi-sensory experience. But since the 19th
century, an education system separated
architecture and acoustical engineering into
different disciplines and specialisations. As
a consequence, in most of current architec-
tural practice, acoustic features such as
geometry, proportions and materials are not
taken into account in early design stages
(except in concert halls). It is mostly
considered as an acoustic correction,
mainly concerning noise control and acous-
tic insulation techniques. Besides, the sci-
ence of acoustics is constrained to investi-
gate sensation and perception in a labora-
tory context.
In the theory of modern architecture we find
very little about the relationship between
sound, space and body, and this is reflected
in architectural practice. While the acoustic
features of the built environment are
shaping our experience of the world,
architecture practice usually neglects the
auditory experience and acoustic space in
its design process. The lack of quality and
diversity in acoustic space experiences in
the everyday produced by a generic
architecture is a problematic issue, as it
contributes to turn our sensorial interplay
into a dormant state. Urban space is becom-
ing a saturated amount of poor quality
acoustic experiences; and because modern
architecture has underestimated if not com-
pletely ignored these phenomena, it cer-
A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I 129 | P a g e
tainly has caused substantial damage (Leit-
ner 1998, 293). The sound quality of our
everyday experiences has serious conse-
quences in our well-being, as it directly af-
fects our nervous system, heart, breathing
and blood pressure which are largely be-
yond conscious control.
In this context, as most of architecture prac-
tice usually neglects acoustic space in its
design process, there is a need to re-
integrate ancient forgotten knowledge in
innovative ways. The challenge today lies
in re-integrating the knowledge of
acoustics, geometry and the human
experience of sound in architecture’s design
process. This practice-based research
project addressed this gap in knowledge,
exploring connexions between
archaeoacoustics and aural architecture.
Furthermore it experimented the
application of acoustic effects found in
ancient places into a contemporary aural
architecture practice. Nevertheless, while
recognising the value of ancient knowledge,
this project explored new forms of
experience, resonance and attunement
adapted to our culture.
The research project, entitled Passage
(2017), was commissioned for the event
Lisboa Soa, an annual event on sound art,
urbanism and auditory culture in Lisbon,
Portugal. The aim of Lisboa Soa was to take
citizens on a sonic journey to re-discover
their cities’ green spaces, and value them.
This edition took place in Estufa Fria, a hu-
man-made ecosystem of hundreds of spe-
cies of plants, running water, water falls,
stones, steps, caves and tunnels, which
produced particular acoustic effects. The
project Passage proposed an aural architec-
ture installation to explore ways to listen to
this ecology through acoustic resonance.
The experiment engaged an active and im-
mersive listening, in a mode of attunement
with self, the place and the surroundings.
Aural Architecture as an Acoustic
Communication Channel
It has been discussed that ancient
architecture, besides providing shelter, was
created based in the language of vibration
and universal geometry, with the intention
to facilitate the human experience of
connection between Earth and Cosmos. The
interconnection between body, mind, space
and time, achieved through sound, affects
even our innermost being, most of the time
unconsciously, and architecture determi-
nates the quality of this relation.
Architecture might had the function of an
acoustic communication channel through
resonance, for attunement to specific
frequencies and dimensions.
[It] is like a kind of dialogue which is deter-
mined by the acoustics premises. This dia-
logue enables us to experience ourselves in
the sound of a room. (Leitner 1998, 299)
Architecture’s physical hearing engages the
entire body, as being in a constant dialogue
between the inner-self with the outside and
surroundings. In much the same way archi-
tecture also resembles such a dialogue con-
necting inside and outside in a specific way
(Leitner 1998: 294). Was it this kind of dia-
logue what ancient civilisations were expe-
riencing in their resonant temples?
The intention of the project Passage was to
experiment the design of aural architecture
as a communication channel through the
language of vibration, with creative forces,
to open up a gaping moment in spacetime
and a resonant dialogue between inside and
outside worlds, or mind-body experiences.
Therefore, this project aimed to study an
affective response to ancient acoustic
effects nowadays.
130 | P a g e A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I
Through the experience of specific
frequencies and sounds in acoustic space, it
experimented the enhancement of mind-
body experiences, in order to study the
human affective experience of it, here
named affective attunement.
In this sense, the experiment developed two
methods of aural architecture design, as
- Sensory variation - the experience of
sound in space as powerful vibrational
forces, with the use of natural phenomena
and elemental (primordial) sounds;
- Resonant design - architectural space as
an acoustic resonator, by the appropriation
of existing places with particular resonance
qualities or building new ones.
Sensory Variation
Sensory phenomena varies in general in
terms of frequency, patterns, rhythm and
tone; it can be sensed as movement, temper-
ature, light or sound. The purpose for this
project’s sensory variation was to draw the
public’s attention to subtile forces at work
in the place, usually gone unnoticed. In
other words, it engaged a translation of lan-
guages, as a transduction into an hearable
spectrum. So the aural architecture of
Passage was designed as a channel for
acoustic communication through the
language of vibration. This technique
explored the language of vibration by the
modulation of natural phenomena, to
achieve a sensorial transformation. Ancient
civilisations used natural spaces and built
architecture for specific purposes with sen-
sory variations of sound, light, smell and
temperature. In this place, the presence of
water was subtle yet its experience could
become intense and overwhelming. This
intervention was inspired by ancient places
such as Chavin de Huantar, or Tihuanaco,
in South America, where amazing acoustic
infrastructures of water channels are found.
It is possible that when water was passing
in, a deep roaring sound was produced,
probably associated with an entity of rain or
thunder, or as an acoustic matrix, where
oracular pronouncements could be deci-
phered (Devereux 2001, 143). For this
experiment, similar acoustic effects were
sought. Here, the water presence (water
falls, water drops, water channels) was
amplified through acoustics and became a
powerful vibratory force that modulated the
whole ambiance. The aural architecture in-
stallation explored forms of experience of
environmental sound through acoustic phe-
nomena and embodiment. The notion of
embodiment considers the human body as
the natural mediator between mind and
physical environment, and may engage the
experience of space and time as a unified
field of resonance. Here, acoustic embodi-
ment was achieved through the space’s res-
onance. The magnification of environmen-
tal sounds produced a sense of physicality
and entered into sympathetic vibration with
the audience’s body and mind.
Figure 1 - plan and section of the tunnel and the zome
A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I 131 | P a g e
The experiment Passage created a walking
path with two different interrelated forms of
experience, and engaged the public in two
different kinds of sensory variation (fig. 1):
- The tunnel - an intervention in an existing
architectural space - a soundscape
installation in resonance with the acoustic
space of a passage way.
- The zome1 - the creation of a new archi-
tectural space - an architecture installation
as a relatively quiet moment for attune-
This intervention enhanced the water
presence, and amplified it in the acoustic
space of the tunnel, which was a cold, dark,
humid passage. The tunnel turned into a
water channel, a passageway between
different time-spaces, a communication
channel to the whole network of the
thousands of species of plants living there.
The vibratory forces of water turned into a
deep roaring sound and modulated specific
resonance frequencies. An immersive
passage was created, as an in-between zone
of low frequency sound and sympathetic
resonance, a void, with portals of standing
waves (figures 2, 3, 4).
As an extension, the zome was built in a
strategic place, where the path coming out
of the tunnel divided in two paths. It em-
braced the path coming out of the tunnel and
transform it into another form of experi-
ence. The zome offered a cosy, dry, warm
shelter, to turn the experience to the interior
of self (figures 5, 6, 7).
Resonant Design
Through this method of resonant design,
based in acoustics and geometry,
architectural space became an acoustic res-
onator. It may be applied by the appropria-
tion of existing places with particular res-
onance qualities or by creating new ones.
Here , three techniques were experimented:
space as resonator, resonant soundscape
and space as frequency.
Figures 2, 3, 4 - the tunnel experience
Figures 5, 6, 7 – the zome experience
1 The term zome was coined in 1968 by
thinker Nooruddeen Durkee, combining the words
dome and zonohedron.
132 | P a g e A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I
Space as Resonator
The acoustic space of the tunnel was
activated with its resonance frequencies. As
this tunnel was not an enclosed space, an
accurate acoustic space measurement could
not be done, neither a reverberation time
calculation. Anyway, these studies were not
needed to conduct the experiment. The aim
was to reach out for particular resonance
frequencies, to create standing waves,
which was simple to calculate based in the
distance between two parallel walls. To
reach out the acoustic effect of a standing
wave pattern, the primary resonance fre-
quency between two parallel walls was
calculated. The results in two points were of
108 Hz and 110 Hz. Coincidently these are
resonance frequencies recurrent in ancient
sites, as it has been investigated in the field
of archaeoacoustics.
Resonance Frequencies and
Mind Body Experiences
Experiments conducted in prehistoric caves
with megalithic art on their walls and cham-
bers provided evidence of particular reso-
nance qualities (Reznikoff and Dauvois
1988; Scarre 1989; Dayton 1992; Devereux
and Jahn 1996; Watson and Keating 1999).
Prehistoric megalithic chambered sites in
England and Ireland, such as Newgrange,
Ireland (c. 3200 BC), were tested with
acoustic measurement for their natural
resonance frequencies (Jahn et al. 1996). A
strong resonance at a frequency between 95
Hz and 120 Hertz was identified, with most
at 110–112 Hz, despite major differences in
chambers shapes and sizes (Jahn et al.
1996). Some of them had rock drawings that
resembled the chamber’s resonant modal
patterns (Jahn et al. 1996). An acoustic
experiment with drumming took place at the
Orkney chambered mound of Maes Howe
(Watson and Keating 1999), and an
Helmholtz resonance of 2 Hz was found
(Devereux 2001, 101). A state of relaxed
body and alerted mind was reported. Other
bodily sensations were felt, such as
infrasound and the illusion that the sound
was being generated inside the participant’s
head. It was suggested that some of these
pre-historic acoustic spaces were ideal en-
vironments for producing dramatic sound
effects (Watson and Keating 1999, 335). It
has been discussed that particular resonant
qualities of the ancient structures could
have been evoked by ritual chanting and
might have facilitated mind-body experi-
ences (Devereux 2001, 89; Jahn et al.
1996). To further an understanding on the
apparent tuning of ancient structures to par-
ticular resonance patterns, other
experiments tested the effects of these
frequencies on human adults. In a pilot
project conducted by Ian A. Cook et al.
(2008), 30 adults were exposed to tones at
these frequencies, monitored with electro-
encephalography (EEG). These studies
showed that frequencies between 108 and
112 Hz specifically affected regional brain
activity. Listening to a tone of 110 Hz, EEG
revealed that the brain activity was
significantly lower corresponding to “a shift
in prefrontal activity that may be related to
emotional processing” (Cook et al. 2008,
96). In another study assessing brain activ-
ity conducted in experienced practitioners
of meditation while meditating, an
increased activity in the prefrontal cortex
was reported (Xu et al. 2014, 5). These
authors argued that this activity relates to a
relaxed focus of attention, which allows
spontaneous thoughts, images, sensations,
memories and emotions. It has been
discussed that future experiments might as-
sess whether these frequencies could lead to
shifts in emotional state, in the content of
the listener’s thoughts, or in a sense of
“disorientation” (cf. Cross and Watson
2006) (Cook et al. 2008, 101).
This research project Passage addressed
this kind of qualitative experiment, to
further an understanding on the role of
A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I 133 | P a g e
specific frequencies and sounds in human
behaviour, as it will be later discussed.
Resonant Soundscape
In the experiment Passage, the tunnel
underwent a process of acoustic transfor-
mation, engaged as an overwhelming force,
an immediacy, like an immersion that takes
experience into a void. A resonant
soundscape composition and acoustic
spatialisation sublimated the presence of the
vibratory force of water in its different
dynamics, and modulated distinct layers of
frequencies, pitch, rhythms, intensities.
The presence of infrasound was amplified,
to enact the physicality of vital force of
environmental sound, enhanced by space’s
acoustics. Primary resonance frequencies of
108 Hz and 110 Hz as tones and its harmon-
ics activated standing waves to draw mind-
body experiences into levels of relaxation
and meditation. After going through this
passage, the audience would go inside the
zome, for an inner-outer form of
Space as Frequency
Inspired by the surrounding geometry of
plants, the geometry of the flower of life
was experimented into the construction of a
zome. Zomes are geometric volumes
composed of lozenges arranged in a double
spiral. The geometry of this zome was based
in a frequency of six, which is a diagram of
equilibrium and balance of forces (a triangle
up and a triangle down, same distance
between the points) (figure 8). This is also
the diagram at the base of the geometry of
the flower of life, which is known since
ancient cultures as a geometry that includes
all existing geometric patterns (figure 9).
This geometry expanded then vertically as a
double spiral or helix, one spiral curving
clock-wise, the other spiral curving anti-
clock wise (figure 10).
The zome geometry resonated with the
patterns of the plants and experimented a
sustainable mode of building with natural
materials efficiency (bendable wood, jute
wire, cork). The zome was self-constructed
and incorporated specific acoustic qualities,
due to its geometry, material's density and
spatial volume. The resulting spatial
volume and energetic geometry engaged
some sort of dynamic stillness, a protective
environment, absorbent but at the same time
allowing permeability. It created an inner
intimate experience, connected to the
outside environment but at the same time
protected and isolated. The aim was to open
up a dialogue between inside and outside.
Fig. 8, 9, 10 - hexagram, flower of life and zome geometry
134 | P a g e A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I
Therefore an acoustic communication was
engaged as a dialogue, an inner-outer
listening towards a meditative state. A
binaural soundscape subtly illuminated the
zome’s experience, highlighting the essence
of the place with water drops, birds signals
and drones of insects (cicadas). It resonated
to what the audience had experienced in the
tunnel, but with a lower intensity, higher
pitch and clarity, switching from an exterior
form of resonance to an interior form of
Energetic Geometry
Ancient civilisations used natural spaces’
acoustics and built architecture based on an
embodied knowledge of vibration,
energetic geometry, cosmology, light and
sound as creative design forces.
Architecture might had the function of an
acoustic communication channel through
design with particular energetic geometry,
for attunement to specific frequencies. The
principles of vibration and energetic geom-
etry were embodied in architectural design.
Vibration creates form (geometry, material
density, spatial volume). The nature of
forms as vibrating structures or periodic
systems was vastly investigated in meticu-
lous experiments carried by physician and
natural scientist Hans Jenny, to which he
called Cymatics 1, a study of wave phenom-
ena to visualise examples of patterns’ for-
mations. He studied how vibrations gener-
ate and influence patterns, shapes and mov-
ing processes. Cymatics, along with other
earlier experiments, such as the Chladni fig-
ures, the Lissajous figures or harmonograph
studies, allowed the visualisation of vibra-
tion and frequency patterns, clearly
revealing visually that form is a vibrating
1 Cymatics is a term originated from the Greek “to
kyma, the wave; ta kymatika, matters pertaining to
waves, wave matters” (Jenny 2001, 20).
structure. It has been argued that these pat-
terns are the expression of a dialogue be-
tween the vibration of the tone and the 'an-
swering' matter, between the motion energy
contained in the vibration, and the matter
which is either resonating in co-movement
or paused inertia (Lauterwasser 2006, 42-
46). The visualisation of these vibrational
patterns also revealed similarities to
patterns found in nature and universal
geometry principles and symbols (vesica
pisces, the flower of life, the golden ration,
the five platonic solids, the star matrix).
The experiment Passage was an attempt to
connect to the universal principle of
vibration, known to our ancestors, as crea-
tive force of forms of experience, resonance
and attunement.
We often disregard experience, even our
own, perhaps because experience cannot be
seen and measured, and frequently not even
communicated properly. (Leitner 1998,
The experiment addressed a qualitative
study of the affective experience of acoustic
phenomena. Methods were sought to under-
stand, explore and communicate the
affective experience of space, which acous-
tical engineering cannot explain nor predict;
and moreover, to transcend an
anthropocentric view of experience towards
an ecological understanding of space as not
empty, as a field of relations, of matter-en-
ergy. This approach aimed to contribute to
a line of relevant research on human affect
of acoustic phenomena, which could com-
plement and enrich others.
A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I 135 | P a g e
In this sense, the experiment created a pub-
lic experience of resonance and attunement
with the environment, to observe its results
with a survey. The event received a great
amount of audience. A survey was
conducted by leaving a notebook with the
question: how do you feel with this experi-
ence? A notebook for comments was used
instead of interviewing the audience. A few
interviews were tried and it resulted as a
mental feedback, with preconceived ideas,
rather then a direct affective expression of
the experience. Next follows a transcription
of some of the notebook comments.
The Tunnel - Audience’s Feedback
- Impressive! I felt like a plant for the first
time! Seeing with vegetable ears.
- No time. A dimension with a lower
- I feel like I’m falling into a hole. I like the
strong sensation in the sounds, it seems like
I feel it inside myself. I closed my eyes and
it becomes much more powerful!
- With my body inside the wall, but with my
ears out.
- I’m in a menthol cave, with water drops
going up and going down (signed: Tiago, 9
years old).
- Inspired. The entrance was not very
inviting, but the way out opens up a new
- A passage is normally an in-between
space, but here it becomes a place in it-self,
like a reality bubble.
- I remembered I breed!
- It reminded me how sensual the sound of
water is… I wonder how would sound the
fire, the earth, the wind…?
- Flying in the water
- Refreshed
- Relaxed
- Peaceful
- Water transports me in harmony and
- The sounds travel through the stones like
if they are communicating between
(C. Martinho, Passage survey, September 15-17, 2017)
The Zome - Audience’s Feedback
- Sliding in life
- I don’t want to go out
- Floating
- In another world
- In my world
- In balance
- Free
- Very calm
- Quiet
- Relaxed
- Is this what bees hear? I like this shape. It
smells good like the earth (signed: Joana, 7
years old)
- Suspended
- Tuned with the vibrations of this space
- I feel the transmission of nature on an
human shape, like if it was a real person.
- Centred
(C. Martinho, Passage survey, September 15-17, 2017)
The audience's feedback was a valuable
input to understand the affective results of
the experiment. The aural experience is a
fundamental process in the development of
the human being, that is shaped by
architecture. This research project valued
the direct experience, and the process of ex-
perience as a way to unify life sensations:
visual, acoustic, tactile, kinetic. It has been
argued that our personal experience is the
only way by which we can understand
acoustic space. Therefore these kinds of
artistic-empirical investigations and acous-
tic experimentation, from field work to a la-
boratory-like situation, have been pointed
out of outermost importance since it may
engage us in the hearing of forms, materials,
and perspectives (Leitner 1998, 302).
136 | P a g e A R C H A E O A C O U S T I C S I I I
Affective Attunement
The project Passage resulted in two aural
architecture experiments with acoustic
effects and resonance frequencies inspired
from ancient sites. Drawing from the
comments, all bodies were attuned, finding
difference in unison. There was a diversifi-
cation in the affective experiences. It might
be interpreted that there was an
enhancement of mind-body experiences,
here named affective attunement, with
different forms of experience of non-verbal
communication between being and place. It
engaged the inner and outer dynamic of the
auditory experience towards deep or medi-
tative states. On one hand, it created an af-
fective experience of environmental sound
as a presence in the now, a sense of self as
part of a powerful field of energy, of water,
of plants, as a driving force. On another
hand, the binaural architecture of the zome
acted as a point of centring in the balance of
The aural architecture design of Passage
aimed to re-integrate the art of vibration,
universal geometry and resonance, known
by ancient civilisations. The experiment
was conducted based on the resonance
phenomenon to explore how it affects the
human experience of self, space, time, in its
relationship to the environment. The
resulting multi-sensory experiences seem to
have contributed to balance the senses
interplay and to an embodied understanding
of self and the environment as an unified
field of relationships, all interconnected
through vibration.
Further Developments
It would be interesting to conduct aural
architecture experiments in ancient sites to
study the human affective experience of
resonance and attunement. This could be a
way to extend further investigations on
aural body-mind experiences as an
ecological and/or spiritual relationship of
the human being with its environment. This
would help to understand design potentials
of specific ancient acoustic qualities, to
experiment applications towards more
ecological forms of experience. The
resulting knowledge could be integrated
into the design of experimental, innovative
and sustainable projects of bio-architecture
and acoustic ecology; with new forms of ex-
perience, resonance and attunement adapted
to our societies’ needs.
COOK. I. A., Pajot. S. K., Leuchter. A. F. 2008. Ancient Archi-
tectural Acoustic Resonance Patterns and Regional Brain Activ-
ity, Time and Mind. Volume 1. Issue l, 95-104.
DEVEREUX, Paul and R.G. Jahn. 1996. Preliminary investiga-
tions and cognitive considerations of the acoustical resonances
of selected archaeological sites, Antiquity 70(269), 665-666.
JAHN, R. G., Devereux, P., Ibisox, M. 1995. Acoustical reso-
nances of Assorted Ancient Structures. Journal of the Acoustics
Society of America. 99, 649-658.
LEITNER, Bernhard. 1998. Sound:Space, Cantz.
LUND, C. S. 1981. The Archeomusicology of Scandinavia,
World Archaeology 12 (3): 246-265,
MASSUMI, Brian. 2002. Paraboles for the Virtual: Movement,
Affect, Sensation, Duke University Press.
MORTON, Timothy. 2014. Accessed February 13, 2016.
REZNIKOFF, I. and Michel DAUVOIS.1988. La dimension so-
nore des grottes ornées, Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique
Française 85: 238-46.
SCARRE, C,. 1989. Painting by resonance, Nature 338: 382.
WATSON, Aaron and David Keating, 1999. Architecture and
sound: an acoustic analysis of megalithic monuments in prehis-
toric Britain. Antiquity, 73(280), 325-336.
XU, J.; Yik, A., Groote, I. R., Lagopoulos, J., Holen, A.,
Ellkgsen, O., Haberg, K.,; Anddavanger, S. 2014. Nondirective
meditation activates default mode network and areas associated
with memory retrieval and emotional processing. Frontiers in
Human Neuroscience. 8. 1-10.
ZALAQUETT, Francisca, Clara Garza, Andrés Medina, Pablo
Padilla, Alejandro Ramos. 2008. Arqueoacústica maya. La nece-
sidad del estudio sistemático de efectos acústicos en sitios ar-
queológicos. Estudios de cultura maya vol.32 México. Accessed
July 23, 2017.
185-25742008000200003#notas - accessed August 2017.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Enclosed prehistoric spaces can have fine echoes. The Hypogeum, celebrated underground ossuary of Neolithic Malta, is the most resonant place to chant a rhythmic ‘Oum’. Are the acoustic features of structures like the megalithic chambers of northern Europe integral to their design? An expert description of their acoustic properties is the point to start.
Full-text available
We discuss the necesity of study systematically the acoustic effects in archaeological sites, Mayans in particular. We present an overview of the state of the regarding both anthropological and mathematical modeling aspects. After presenting a general introduction and discussion about what we consider a suitable theoretical archaeoacoustical framework, we review existing works on the acoustics of Mayan sites. We focus on the chirped echo of El Castillo pyramid at Chichén Itzá, and use a mathematical model which includes both space and time to solve it numerically.
Full-text available
Nondirective meditation techniques are practiced with a relaxed focus of attention that permits spontaneously occurring thoughts, images, sensations, memories, and emotions to emerge and pass freely, without any expectation that mind wandering should abate. These techniques are thought to facilitate mental processing of emotional experiences, thereby contributing to wellness and stress management. The present study assessed brain activity by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 14 experienced practitioners of Acem meditation in two experimental conditions. In the first, nondirective meditation was compared to rest. Significantly increased activity was detected in areas associated with attention, mind wandering, retrieval of episodic memories, and emotional processing. In the second condition, participants carried out concentrative practicing of the same meditation technique, actively trying to avoid mind wandering. The contrast nondirective meditation > concentrative practicing was characterized by higher activity in the right medial temporal lobe (parahippocampal gyrus and amygdala). In conclusion, the present results support the notion that nondirective meditation, which permits mind wandering, involves more extensive activation of brain areas associated with episodic memories and emotional processing, than during concentrative practicing or regular rest.
Full-text available
Previous archaeoacoustic investigations of prehistoric, megalithic structures have identified acoustic resonances at frequencies of 95-120 Hz, particularly near 110-12 Hz, all representing pitches in the human vocal range. These chambers may have served as centers for social or spiritual events, and the resonances of the chamber cavities might have been intended to support human ritual chanting. We evaluated the possibility that tones at these frequencies might specifically affect regional brain activity. In a pilot project, 30 healthy adults listened to tones at 90, 100, 110, 120, and 130 Hz while brain activity was monitored with electroencephalography (EEG). Activity in the left temporal region was found to be significantly lower at 110 Hz than at other frequencies. Additionally, the pattern of asymmetric activity over the prefrontal cortex shifted from one of higher activity on the left at most frequencies to rightsided dominance at 110 Hz. These findings are compatible with relative deactivation of language centers and a shift in prefrontal activity that may be related to emotional processing. These intriguing pilot findings suggest that the acoustic properties of ancient structures may influence human brain function, and suggest that a wider study of these interactions should be undertaken.
Prehistoric monuments in Britain are often dominant features in the landscape, and archaeological theory has tended to consider the visual and spatial influences of their architecture upon peoples' movement and perception. The articulation of sound within these structures has not been widely discussed, despite evidence which suggests that many monuments provided settings for gatherings of people. This possibility was explored at two contrasting sites in Scotland, a recumbent stone circle and a passage-grave, revealing that the elemental acoustic properties inherent in each may have literally orchestrated encounters with the stones.
Acoustical resonances of Assorted Ancient Structures
  • R G Jahn
  • P Devereux
  • M Ibisox
JAHN, R. G., Devereux, P., Ibisox, M. 1995. Acoustical resonances of Assorted Ancient Structures. Journal of the Acoustics Society of America. 99, 649-658.
The Archeomusicology of Scandinavia
  • C S Lund
LUND, C. S. 1981. The Archeomusicology of Scandinavia, World Archaeology 12 (3): 246-265,
html REZNIKOFF, I. and Michel DAUVOIS.1988. La dimension sonore des grottes ornées
  • Timothy Morton
MORTON, Timothy. 2014. Accessed February 13, 2016. REZNIKOFF, I. and Michel DAUVOIS.1988. La dimension sonore des grottes ornées, Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française 85: 238-46.