[Bell Historians] Defining acoustical heritage: A qualitative approach based on expert interviews

Gareth Davies charollais at gmail.com
Wed Nov 22 12:52:52 GMT 2023

Thanks for sharing this Scott

It is an interesting read and there are a couple of areas that particularly interest me. Personally, I’m less worried about the multiplicity and imprecision of terms. It is often clear from the context what is being discussed and from the particular discipline that is discussing it. And there are, of course, many other commonly used phrases that the article does not mention. I have all my papers and references on this subject grouped under ‘acoustic ecology’, for instance.

However, there is no doubt that the authors are correct, so far as the UK is concerned, when they say that, ‘...so far, sound and acoustics have usually been considered only as an element of heritage that contributes to its value, rather than being considered as a separate heritage category to be preserved, and this neglect poses a threat to the conservation of these auditory treasures’.

The UK has failed to sign up to the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage, which means that while the ‘manual bell ringing’ of Spain was recently added to their list, there is no possibility of ‘English’ change-ringing getting similar recognition, even though the rationale for Spanish bellringing’s inclusion could be adopted almost word for word. ‘The practice is transmitted from the bell ringers to younger generations and through bell-ringing groups or organizations that, in addition to documenting and researching the practice, also ring, transmit, instruct and disseminate the art of traditional bell ringing’.

It is not the only area of cultural recognition and protection where the UK government is playing hard to get. For more than 10 years it has been possible for areas of Britain to create Local Heritage Lists. The buildings and landscapes that are on such lists do not qualify for protection as listed buildings, conservation areas, SSSIs etc, but ‘have a degree of heritage significance meriting consideration in planning decisions’. I recently asked the Cambridgeshire Local Heritage List project board whether soundscapes could be considered for inclusion.

“Can you tell me whether the scope of the list is potentially broad enough to encompass historic sounds, as well as physical assets?
I have in mind the sound of church bells where that makes a distinctive contribution to the local heritage. …"

I got a very short reply that ‘historic sounds are not part of the scope of this project’.

I don’t expect that to change here any time soon. But anything that highlights the importance of formally recognising ‘auditory treasures’ is to be welcomed



> On 22 Nov 2023, at 09:04, Scott Allan Orr via Bell-historians <bell-historians at lists.ringingworld.co.uk> wrote:
> Dear colleagues and friends,
> You may find the paper below that was published by one of our MSc students in the Institute for Sustainable Heritage interesting.
> Xiaoyan Zhu, Tin Oberman, Francesco Aletta. Defining acoustical heritage: A qualitative approach based on expert interviews. Applied Acoustics, Volume 216, 2024, 109754.
> https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apacoust.2023.109754
> The interdisciplinary study of acoustics/sound and heritage occurs in different countries and cultures, but there is no uniform consensus on the terminology and definitions of the field. This study aims to explore the definition of acoustical heritage. The study used structured interviews with experts from different cultures and different disciplines and analyzed the interview data in detail through thematic analysis. The five themes are: different terminology, subjects in acoustical heritage, possible categories of acoustical heritage, value of acoustical heritage, and challenges of acoustical heritage preservation. Based on individual definitions of acoustical heritage proposed by experts and through detailed analysis and discussion, this paper proposes a multidimensional definition of acoustical heritage.
> Keywords: Archaeoacoustics; Heritage; Multidimensional approach; Preservation; Terminology; Definition; Thematic analysis
> All my best,
> Scott
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