University academic wins prize for recreating historical music performances

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A researcher who uses gaming technology to recreate historical music performances has won the University’s annual prize for raising public interest in science.

Dr James Cook, a Senior Lecturer in Early Music and Director of Research Innovation at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), has been awarded The Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science for innovative research projects.

The prize, awarded as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival, recognises and rewards the University’s outstanding science communicators. As part of the award, James will present the Festival’s Tam Dalyell Prize lecture on Sunday 14 April in the University’s Playfair Library.

Dr James Cook will present the Edinburgh Science Festival’s Tam Dalyell Prize lecture

The lecture will share the highlights of a ground-breaking project combining music from more than 500 years ago with virtual reality and cutting-edge acoustic techniques.

James is an expert in early music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and its later representation in popular media. He has worked with a team of researchers to recreate historical music performances that took place at Linlithgow Palace in West Lothian, more than half a millennium ago.

Scholars from Edinburgh College of Art and the universities of Birmingham and Melbourne collaborated with Historic Environment Scotland to reconstruct lost performances at the Palace – one of the principal residences of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The project recaptured the lost glory of the Palace by bringing together scientific acoustic research, historical archival work, archaeology, and performance, to reconstruct the music within virtual reality.

Researchers are working with Historic Scotland to offer visitors a multi-sensory on-site experience in the undercroft of the Palace.

The experience is also available as a CD, launched by Hyperion Records, using the reconstructed acoustic. The recording, featuring professional singers from the acclaimed Binchois Consort, is the first commercial CD to be recorded and produced entirely in virtual reality.

Find out more

Tickets for the lecture are available from the Edinburgh Science Festival website.

Tam Dalyell Prize Lecture | Edinburgh Science Festival

The Tam Dalyell Prize began in 2008 and is named in honour of Dr Tam Dalyell, former University Rector and politician, who wrote a weekly New Scientist columnist for 36 years.

Tam Dalyell Prize Lectures | The University of Edinburgh 

Revived with the sound of music | Edinburgh Impact