Thursday, October 8, 2015

David and Ben Crystal in the Recording Studio

David  Crystal and his son Ben Crystal have released original pronunciation recordings under the sponsorship of the British Library. 

David's recording is of the Gospel of St Matthew, in the translation of William Tyndale (see image above). Ben's is of several of the sonnets as well as of speeches and scenes from various of Shakespeare's plays.

On this recording, Ben is joined by actors Learn more about Ben Crystal's work in drama, including more original pronunciation Shakespeare here:

David and Ben are, of course, members of the Production Team for The Virtual Cathedral Project. 

Ben is the voice of John Donne in original pronunciation, delivering Donne's sermon for November 5th, 1622 for the Virtual Paul's Cross Project, using a script of Donne's sermon prepared by his father David.

Damian Murphy Helps Create Lost Spaces in Live Performance

Damian Murphy, a member of the Virtual Cathedral Project's Advisory Committee and Reader in Audio and Music Technology at the University of York, has recently been involved in a project to model the acoustics of York's St Mary's Abbey.

This project led to a live performance by members of the Ebor Singers this past September 25th, 2015 of a new composition for voice entitled Architexture II, by composer Ambrose Field.
Dating from 1088, St Mary’s Abbey was one of the largest Benedictine establishments in the north of England. Yet since ​its dissolution in ​1540, it has declined into ruin. 
A cross-disciplinary team from the University of York is ​bringing the space back to life, ​by re-constructing the acoustics and sounds of the building. 
Dr Jude Brereton, Dr Helena Daffern, and Amelia Gully from the Department of Electronics at the University of York led the real-time application of the reconstructed acoustic, originally modeled by Stephen Oxnard and Dr Damian Murphy. 
Through use of augmented reality acoustics, the audience gathered in the Abbey's ruins heard the composition as though it were being performed in the Abbey before it was abandoned in 1540, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. 
This project reflects recent developments in the technology of recording because it means that recordings of sounds for playback through acoustic models of lost spaces no longer have to be made in anechoic chambers to eliminate ambient noise from the recording.
Field’s work was composed to take full advantage of the 11-second reverberation time of the original building. 
You can hear part of Field's composition and get a feeling for the reverberation time of the reconstructed space by going here:!news/cwpd
You can read more about the composition here:
You can learn more about the event on S3ptember 25th here: 

The Virtual Cathedral Project will incorporate, in future manifestations, both this new recording technique, as well as new modes of display for the visual model, such as 3-D visual modeling technology. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Paul's Cross Co-PI's Featured by NC State Arts

David Hill and I were featured in the fall 2015 issue of #creativestate, the official magazine of ARTS NC STATE, the visual and performing arts program here on campus in Raleigh.

Appropriate for our use of digital technology in the Virtual Paul's Cross Project, the image above is a digital construct. 

Our schedules did not mesh when the magazine's photographers needed to make this shot, so David and I were photographed on different days, standing before projected images of the Gipkin painting of Paul's Cross. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Virtual St Paul's Cathedral Project Receives Major NEH Grant

The Virtual St Paul's Cathedral Project has been awarded a Digital Humanities Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

For the official announcement of the grant on the NEH's website, go here:

The official story says they gave away 36+ million dollars and lists a few typical recipients (but not us).

To get the the list of the actual grants and their recipients, click on the link they provide, which takes you to a 38-page pdf, and you will find us on page 29.

There, you will learn that we have been funded to do "further work on a three-dimensional, immersive model of the visual and aural environment of St. Paul's Cathedral and Churchyard as they stood in London during the early 17th century. 

"The project would also further develop and publicly release open-source software for the modeling and representation of sound in historic spaces."

The news was delivered by William Adams, Chairman of the NEH, in person, during a visit to NC State University to see the Installation of the Virtual Paul's Cross Project at NC State's Hunt Library.

For a fuller account of the announcement at NC State, go here:

This is very exciting news, indeed!

Friday, April 3, 2015

John Schofield Speaks at St Paul's Cathedral

John Schofield, Archaeologist at St Paul's Cathedral, will give a lecture at the cathedral on Saturday, the 11th of April, 2015, at 13:00 (1:00 pm), in the Wren Suite in the cathedral crypt.
The lecture will be entitled The Archaeology of St Paul's Cathedral, to the Great Fire. 
Schofield will discuss the history and archaeology of the cathedral site from Roman times, tracing the designs of the various cathedrals built on this site since 604 AD, culminating in an account of medieval St Paul's, the largest building in medieval Britain, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. 
This talk will include Schofield's account of recent discoveries in and around the cathedral, especially new information he has found in the London Metropolitan Archives about the St Paul's Deanery, where the John Donne lived when he served as dean of the cathedral from 1621-31. 
The talk is free but places are limited, so tickets are required.  When you arrive, the crypt is accessible via the entrance on the north side of the cathedral, near the West Front.

Go here to book your ticket:
In addition to being the Cathedral Archaeologist, Schofield is author of St Paul's Cathedral Before Wren (English Heritage, 2011), and a member of the Production Team for the award-winning Virtual Paul's Cross Project, a digital reconstruction of St Paul's Churchyard in 1622.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Virtual Paul's Cross Featured on the NC State University Website

The NC State University News Service has released a story on Paul's Cross on the occasion of our receiving the DH Award for Best Data Visualization by this write-up just now on the NC State website:

Good to see publicity from the DH Award! 

Virtual Paul's Cross at Conferences and in Print

John N Wall conducted the following professional activities in the past year, on behalf of the Virtual Paul's Cross Project:

Wall delivered a paper entitled "Reconstructing Pre-Modern Spaces: The Example of the Virtual Paul's Cross Project" at Reconceiving Pre-Modern Spaces, the 11th Annual Conference of the Marco Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Tennessee, March 6-8, 2014.

Wall also gave a talk entitled ""Recreating the Paul's Cross Sermon at St Paul's Cathedral," at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on November 22, 2014.

Wall's essay "The Virtual Paul's Cross Project: Digital Modeling's Uneasy Approximations" was published in EDUCAUSE Review Online (October 2014), here:

John N. Wall’s essay “Preaching to the Choir: Understanding Worship in an Aural Culture” was published in Preaching and the Theological Imagination, ed Zachary Guiliano and Cameron Partridge (New York: Peter Lang, 2015), pp. 125-150.

Virtual Paul's Cross Reviewed in Spenser Studies

A few quotes:
“While its digital reenactments offer many teaching and research possibilities, the VPCP’s most significant intellectual contribution is an argument for treating early modern sermons as events, as is implied by its integration of text, time, and performance conditions.”  


“The acoustic model is . . . robust in historical detail.”

“One final noteworthy contribution of the VPCP is its consolidation of historical sources. . . .energizing these scarce sources is itself a remarkable accomplishment for this project.

We are deeply grateful to Professor Smith for his thoughtful and generous review!

Paul's Cross Wins International Digital Humanities Award


The Virtual Paul's Cross Project has been recognized for excellence through the 2014 competition sponsored by the international Digital Humanities Awards program.

Paul's Cross was named recipient of the Award for the Digital Humanities Project with the Best Data Visualization for 2014.

Go here for full detail and all the results.

Paul's Cross and the American Historical Association

The Virtual Paul's Cross Project was one of the projects discussed at a workshop on "Getting Started in Digital History" at the 2015 meeting of the American Historical Association, held this year in New York City.

I'm told that over 150 people showed up at 9:00 on a Friday morning for this session, an admirable gathering for the first day of a multi-day international conference.

One major result of this meeting is an essay entitled "Remember, Remember the Fifth of November: Modeling John Donne's Gunpowder Day Sermon," by Seth Denbo, the director of scholarly communication and digital initiatives for the American Historical Association.

Denbo's essay appears in the February 2015 issue of Perspectives on History, the newsmagazine of the AHA, here.

In this piece, Seth reports on the AHA session, noting that Paul's Cross was the last of several projects discussed at this session, chosen because it "is a groundbreaking attempt to combine historical scholarship with work from archaeology, architecture, and acoustical engineering to recreate some of the elements of that London morning in 1622."

I commend to you the entire piece, but here is a taste of what Seth has to say:

"Like all historical work, the project creates representations of the lived experience of historical actors. The website’s 3-D models of the churchyard, the static and moving images that show the view from various vantage points, and the acoustic representations that allow us to listen to the sermon all build a rich descriptive and interpretative framework for understanding.

"The finished product allows a broad audience to understand what it was like to attend a public sermon in 17th-century London and to experience dimensions the text does not provide.

Denbo says he likes "this project because it shows the possibilities that can be realized by combining ­traditional historical methodologies with those in fields that are much more driven by technology, such as the acoustical ­engineering techniques used in the project. 

"In combining primary sources with secondary literature on the period, this solidly historical undertaking also takes a novel approach to the presentation of scholarship. It makes the most of digital technologies and uses the web to provide descriptive and interpretive elements.

"This project is an excellent example of a historiographical intervention into a rich scholarly conversation.

"It furthers our ­understanding of the sermon itself, provides an idea of the experience of attending a sermon of the time, and enriches our knowledge of the wider historical context.

Denbo concludes,"Far from merely imagining new business models for journal publishing, or lamenting the demise of the scholarly monograph, projects like Virtual Paul’s Cross evince creativity and place a value on ingenuity as they produce meticulous ­scholarship."

All of us involved with the Virtual Paul's Cross Project are deeply grateful to Denbo for his thoughtful review. We believe he really gets what we've tried to do.