Sound in space and time: exploring sensory experiences in churches

14:30, Sunday 9 May 2021 (30 minutes)
Break    03:00 PM to 03:30 PM (30 minutes)

Josée Laplace and Catherine Guastavino, McGill University, Canada

The built environment plays an important role in our sensory experiences, particularly through interactions with sound. Indeed, buildings sound differently based on the activities performed in them, in such a way that we can somehow “hear” their inert features (Rasmussen 1959). Churches in particular are characterized by sonic qualities related to a complex deployment of sound in time and space. We report the main findings of an in-depth exploration of sensory experiences in two Montreal churches, with a focus on sound-related experiences. This research builds upon urban and architectural ambiance frameworks and a growing interest in soundscape research for previously underexplored interior spaces (see Tarlao al. 2021 for a review). Based on a linguistic analysis of verbal descriptions, we inferred conceptualizations of sound-related experiences, in relation to spatial/architectural features of the church, temporal aspects of the experience, restorativeness, and embodiment, as individual sensory experiences grounded in religious and cultural practices and representations. These findings provide theoretical grounds to inform heritage conservation based on the sonic quality of churches and other spaces with particular acoustics, revisiting these sensory experiences “from the past” to better understand how they fit into the present urban sensorium.

McGill University
McGill University