App brings time travel to life for schools

A free app created by a University of Huddersfield professor enables primary school pupils and their teachers to become time travellers, experiencing the sights and sounds – including the music – of ancient societies and civilisations. They can sample life as a prehistoric cave dweller, witness the rise of Stonehenge or join the audience at a Roman amphitheatre. Now available is a Key Stage 2 education pack titled Music Archaeology from Stone Age to Roman Times. Issued by the University of Huddersfield, it tells teachers how to download the Soundgate App that was developed as part of the European Music Archaeology Project (EMAP).

A key member of this five-year project was the University’s Professor Rupert Till, who has researched and recreated the acoustics of several ancient sites and developed the interactive app that enables users to explore them.

By using Soundgate in the classroom, teachers can help pupils take virtual walk-throughs of three World Heritage Sites that have been modelled visually and sonically. They are prehistoric caves in Spain, England’s Stonehenge and Paphos Roman Theatre in Cyprus. While schoolchildren explore these spaces, they can trigger the musical sounds that may have been heard there in the past and hear how the acoustics of the spaces enhance them and how the acoustics change as they move around the site.

Soundgate is at the heart of the new Key Stage 2 pack from the University of Huddersfield, with the backing of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Culture Programme of the EU.The pack includes a series of lively lesson plans on topics such as Creating Cave Art and Making Cave Sounds and Music, with links to National Curriculum programmes of study for history, history and science and other subjects.

“The curriculum for primary schools includes prehistory, which can be a little dry,” said Professor Till. “One of the things that inspired the pack was a teacher who was interested in using my research to enrich that study. Bringing in music and cave art broadens it and brings in the science of acoustics and the history of art and music.”

The pack was trialled at a local primary school in West Yorkshire, where the teachers and pupils found the app interesting and accessible. Now, it is being made widely available and is downloadable for free.

Professor Till – who was recently elected Chair of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music – continues to develop Soundgate by carrying out new research into the acoustics of ancient sites. Alongside a newly-recruited post-doctoral researcher, he is moving on to Mexico and the music of the Aztecs.

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