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Experiencing Historical Soundscapes: the Royal Entries of Emperor Charles V in Iberian Cities

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ExpSoundscapes (Experiencing Historical Soundscapes: the Royal Entries of Emperor Charles V in Iberian Cities)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2022-08-31

This MSCA project investigates methodologies to bridge the gap between describing, reflecting on, and experiencing historical soundscapes. In doing so, it integrates historical, sensorial, and artistic approaches. Equally crucial to the project is the research on the use of digital technologies and the way they are creating new cognition processes and research methodologies. The researcher working on this action is especially interested in studying how they change how research is done and communicated within and beyond academia.
The focus of the action is the soundscapes of royal entries in the Early Modern period. This type of urban pageantry commemorating exceptional occasions, such as coronations, engagements, and weddings, was widespread in Europe and constituted a momentous event that regulated the relationship between rulers and cities. Involving individuals from all strata of society, royal entries were used as means of propaganda and display of power. The different actors participating and observing the parades generated a multi-layered and distinct urban soundscape featuring a wide range of sonic events, from the chattering of people to the imposing sound of trumpets and kettledrums mixed with horses thumping on the ground. The preserved records of Emperor Charles V’s entries in Iberian cities (1517-58) offer fertile ground for studying this form of festival, as Charles is considered to have ‘established the festival book as a genre’. The contextualised sonic elements extracted from contemporary documents will be collected in a database and geolocated on an interactive map, so linking sound and space. These elements will provide the basis for creating a script of an immersive event that will re-enact the soundscape of a royal entry into a regular Iberian city. The re-enactment will take the shape of a soundwalk, with locative audio powered by GIS technology accessible through a mobile or tablet application.

The knowledge of the human past and its cultural manifestations is crucial to the evolution of human beings and societies. We need to understand the past in order to understand the present. Approaching it sensorially offers another invaluable tool to apprehend the past.
Re-enacting historical soundscapes (understood as immaterial historical heritage) and experiencing them puts the sense of hearing in the centre and provides new insights into cultural objects. It also brings an aesthetic experience.

The Research Objectives of this action are
1. To identify, describe and assess the structural sonic and spatial elements (soundscapes) of Royal entries in Iberian cities during the life of Emperor Charles V (d.1558);
2. To map and contextualise those soundscapes (both cultural and historically) within their spatial coordinates;
3. To facilitate the experience of soundscapes by creating digital-aided tools to retrieve and valorise them as intangible cultural heritage in the form of an immersive multimedia event.
The project's implementation has been seriously affected by the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has significantly thwarted access to research materials and hindered any effort to follow the plan or make alternative ones in the medium and long term. Two areas have been substantially affected by it. First, access to the primary materials that inform the whole action was inconsistent and unpredictable, with delays accumulating and exponentially affecting other aspects; second, activities involving live music and public spectacles were suspended with no indication of when they could be resumed.

These unforeseen events have resulted in an incomplete development of the action, which will require a time extension to get fully finished.
The expected results will address both the scientific community and the wider public. The academic results will consist of two articles that reflect on epistemological and methodological questions raised in the project. One will contextualise the sonic elements in the royal entries of Charles V in Spanish cities; the other will reflect on the use of digital technologies to help apprehend immaterial heritage. Also, a database anchored to a GIS map will offer all the collected sonic data contextualised and geolocalised.

For the broader public with interest in culture, the soundwalk will be a unique and attractive offering and will facilitate exposure of high-quality repertoire within an enhanced contextual framework. Its immersive character will enhance the audience's engagement. In some occasions, the event will be paired with a public lecture followed by an open discussion, all conducted in a clear, popular, non-technical language.

The whole project aims to raise the importance of sound as a historical object and to help us understand it as an essential component of our cultural heritage.
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