Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays

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Mariana Lopez working on a laptop in a church

A soundscape is a sound or combination of sounds that cultivates an immersive environment to share a story or memory.

In this case, the Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays project used digital audio technologies to recreate York's 15th- and 16th-century performances of the Mystery Plays, allowing for reflection on their impact on these plays.

The recreated soundscapes included elements of the narrative (speech, music, sound effects), sounds resulting from the performance (wagons, audiences) and also those that were external (weather conditions, bells).

Modern aural considerations were also investigated through the collection of oral histories of organisers, performers and audiences, in order to establish parallels between the medieval and modern experiences, allowing us to highlight the value of medieval studies in the modern world.

Expanding into 'Hearing the Mystery Plays'

As a result of the 'Soundscapes of the York Mystery Plays' project, we took the sound installation of the project, 'Hearing the Mystery Plays', to the All Saints Church, Pavement (York, UK).

The installation resulted from Mariana's research into the acoustics of the performance spaces of the York Mystery Plays in medieval times, using computer models. It allowed visitors to explore how the acoustics of the street spaces and different staging configurations might have affected the spoken and sung items of the plays, while also providing information on the technology that made the research project possible.

The installation was part of a series of events that accompanied the 2014 staging of the York Mystery Plays.




Principal investigator Mariana Lopez is a Research Fellow at StoryLab (formerly CoDE) and Lecturer in Sound Production and Post-Production at University of York. For more information on the project, visit www.soundscapesyorkmysteryplays.com.