Professor Sharon Gerstel Works with Engineering Professor at USC Viterbi to Create an “Acoustic Museum”

Published: May 25, 2016

Chris Kyriakakis, founding director of USC’s Immersive Audio Lab and a USC Viterbi electrical engineering professor, lived his childhood in their shadow.

“As a boy, I was captivated by the sound of the city’s churches,” Kyriakakis said. “The first thing that hits you when you walk into these ancient spaces is the silence. When a sound finally drops, it completely envelops you.”

Though his career path took him far from the city of his birth, Kyriakakis dreamed that one day he’d be able to transport the sacred sounds of Thessaloniki to the world. He wanted to re-create ancient spaces that no longer exist using only sound. He calls them “acoustic museums.”

He imagines pilgrims entering a dark room to be transported into an immersive acoustical journey into antiquity. Ancient structures battered by war, urbanization or natural disasters would be resurrected in a temple of virtual surround-sound….

So when Sharon Gerstel, UCLA professor of Byzantine art history and archaeology, invited him to record chants in ancient churches in Thessaloniki over the summer, Kyriakakis loved the sound of it. He joined Gerstel as the co-primary investigator of an international project.

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