Sounds, Acoustics and Architecture of an Antique Theatre

    SONAT is born from the observation that 3D archaeological reconstructions, which are regularly proposed to ‘‘bring back to life’’ monuments of the past, only very rarely take into account, precisely, the daily reality, functions and uses of these monuments. This is particularly the case for theatres, which often appear only as sumptuous architectural sceneries. Although our information on antique theatrical performances is very incomplete, the SONAT project intends to take advantage of the in-depth work carried out by a part of the team on Roman theatrical architecture to propose a partial reconstruction of the ‘‘sound landscape’’ of one of the best preserved theatres in the Roman world, Orange (antique Arausio). It is based on a double modeling: on the one hand the architectural modeling with the elaboration of a digital model of the theatre reflecting the current state of knowledge and also integrating architectural components that have now disappeared (roof, velum, stage curtain), and on the other hand, the acoustic modeling, made possible by the development of new digital simulation technologies.

    This multidisciplinary project brings together specialists in ancient theatre and architecture, acoustics, ancient history, music and 3D modelling from five teams or institutions: the ‘‘Rome et ses renaissances’’ team of Sorbonne University, the University of Poitiers, the IRAA of the CNRS, the CMAP and the Orange Museum. The exploration of the sound reality of the monument is based, first, on a precise analysis of the sources relating to imperial period theatrical performances. It also includes a study of the acoustic properties of the monument, and an experimental sound simulation component, made possible both by the development by R. Gueguen of a specific measuring tool that takes into account the architectural configuration of the monument and its materials, as well as the precise position of sound sources and listeners, and through a collaboration with S. Hagel (Vienna Academy of Sciences), philologist, musicologist and musician, who made anechoic chamber recordings from facsimiles of ancient instruments. The project is expected to result in a 3D animated film in 2019 that will provide a visual and sound restitution of the antique theatre of Orange, offering a series of musical and scenic sequences or ‘‘paintings’’, but also an atmosphere, illustrating the preparations for a show at the beginning of the empire. This reconstruction work involves finalizing the auralization – or implementation – of the reconstituted sounds in the digital model of the Orange theatre. It will constitute an inventory, presented in digital format, of the latest knowledge and hypotheses around the monument and its acoustic properties.