billiard digital simulations of acoustics in the conceptual reconstruction of “Building E” with screening surrounding the stage (above) and without it (below) using Odeon Room Acoustics.

The investigation of the acoustics of the grandstand from Yeavering within the McCord Centre for Landscape is opening new research questions about acoustics design between Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Digital acoustics simulations show that the screens around the stage impact on acoustics in a way that has been recently observed in early churches, as it will be explained in more details in specific publications. In short, the screens influence the sound emitted from the grandstand’s stage similarly to how apses influence the sound emitted from the customary location of a bishop’s cathedra. When the sound is emitted in proximity of the curved surface, its early reflections are projected forward, towards the audience; when the sound is emitted at a certain distance, the reflections from the curved surface are conveyed to the centre and then dispersed laterally.

There are certainly differences between how acoustics is shaped by the grandstand’s screens or by basilicas’ apses, which will be discussed elsewhere. In both cases, however, these features seem to take advantage of a sound phaenomenon described by Vitruvius, and therefore known since antiquity. There are places, Vitruvius says, that are “circumsonant”: sound is conveyed to the centre and dispersed, and the last part of syllables cannot be heard. What Vitruvius tried to explain is the same acoustic phaenomenon that creates a hierarchical differentiation of acoustics in early churches or the Yeavering’s grandstand.