Hagia Sophia: A Space In Between Heaven and Earth

Hagia SophiaProfessor Bissera Pentcheva presents Hagia Sophia: A Space In Between Heaven and Earth at Reed College

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 – 4:45pm
Eliot Hall 314
Free and open to the public
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** This event follows Cappella Romana’s residency with Dr. Pentcheva at Stanford, where the ensemble performed medieval Byzantine chant from Hagia Sophia in a sold-out live concert and recording sessions, both using the imprinted acoustic of Hagia Sophia developed by Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. **

Drawing on art and architectural history, liturgy, musicology, acoustics, and digital technology, this lecture explores the Byzantine paradigm of animation as manifested in Hagia Sophia, arguing that it emerges in the visual and sonic mirroring, in the chiastic structure of the psalmody, and in the prosody of the sung poetry. Together these elements orchestrate a multi-sensory experience that has the potential to destabilize the divide between real and oneiric, placing the faithful in a space in between terrestrial and celestial. The use of digital technology to imprint the acoustics of the Great Church on modern performance of Byzantine chant (by Cappella Romana!) invites a reflection on how our studies in the humanities can transcend the limits of text-based encounter with the past and enter instead the realm of experience and aesthetics.

Bissera Pentcheva teaches medieval art at Stanford University. Her research focuses on animation, phenomenology, aesthetics, and acoustics. Her articles have appeared in the Art Bulletin, Gesta, and Dumbarton Oaks Papers. Her three books include Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium (Penn State Press, 2006), The Sensual Icon: Space Ritual and The Senses in Byzantium (Penn State Press, 2010), and Hagia Sophia: Sound, Space, and Spirit in Byzantium (Penn State Press, 2017). She has just completed an edited volume on art, music, acoustics, and the use of digital technology, Pentcheva, ed., Aural Architecture: Music, Acoustics and Ritual in Byzantium (Ashgate/Routledge, 2017).