Hearing the Past

Professor Jim Al-Khalili explores what the past would have sounded like to our ancestors, and investigates how it is helping us to improve our acoustic designs of the future.

We hear what a singer in Coventry Cathedral would have sounded like before it was bombed in 1940, and how a Stonehenge ritual four thousand years ago had a bass-synthesiser effect going on that Depeche Mode would have been proud of!

Designers of modern concert venues are learning lessons from the layout of Stonehenge and we also learn how better acoustics in today’s buildings improve our quality of life, and can even save lives.

Producer: Jane Reck
An Alfi Media production for BBC Radio 4.

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Chris Watson: A Masterclass In Listening

2 months after Iceland’s ash cloud grounded global air transport, leading sound recordist Chris Watson reveals the secrets of one of Iceland’s more literary but no less famous volcanoes.

A boyhood Jules Verne fan, Chris will retrace the steps of Professor and Axel Lidenbrock from Reykjavik to his favourite place in the world – Snaefellsjokull – the glacier that contains the passage to the Centre of the Earth in Verne’s 1864 seminal work of Science Fiction. Along the way he’ll encounter communities affected by the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull, talking to people who live within this geologically charged environment and meeting artists and musicians who have been inspired by their volcanic landscape.

Tying in with Verne’s theme of geographical exploration, to reach Snaefellsjokull – known to locals simply as Jules Verne’s Volcano – Chris will travel through one of Iceland’s most beautiful National Parks and will use his extraordinary recording techniques to reveal the natural sounds of this unique environment. The sounds of bubbling mud pools and sulphurous springs mirroring Jules Verne’s deep connection to the physical world.

Revealing interviews with leading figures from Iceland’s vibrant arts scene: including the keyboardist of Sigur Ros and best-selling Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason will combine with Chris’s recordings as he creates his own sonic adventure in the shadow of Jules Verne’s novel and Iceland’s volcanoes.

Producer: Rose de Larrabeiti
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Listen here: Jules Verne’s Volcano