Soundscape 3: The Assumption of the Virgin

Audiovisual material available here

You are listening to an extract of the Weavers’ play The Assumption of the Virgin. The only surviving notated music from the York Mystery Plays comes from this play and consists of six polyphonic pieces with the incipits Surge, proxima mea, Veni de Libano, sponsa and Veni, electa mea.  The manuscript has two polyphonic versions of each text.  The soundscape you are listening to includes three of these musical items as well as spoken extracts from the angels, the Virgin Mary and Thomas, the apostle.

As is the case with the previous soundscapes, The Assumption of the Virgin explores the impact of the acoustics of sixteenth-century Stonegate on spoken and sung extracts from the play.  Stonegate was simulated as having a majority of three-storeyed buildings and with windows and shutters modelled as closed.

The virtual model of Stonegate is combined with a simulation of a multi-level wagon with its lower section representing Earth and closed on three sides with curtains and an upper deck, which represents Heaven, open on the left and right-hand sides. This structure is based on some of the features described for the 1433 Mercers’ wagon of The Last Judgement.

Closed side on wagon without audiences

The wagon was simulated as having a side-on orientation, that is, actors are delivering their lines towards one of the sides of the street.

Image 8 copyThe sound sources, which represent performers, are indicated with grey cubes, and the audience members are presented using white spheres.  For this soundscape the receiver position was kept constant, this is, all auralizations consider an audience member sitting at a scaffold, which may have been located at the side of the street.  The position of the performers changes throughout the soundscape depending on the character.  All polyphonic pieces and lines performed by angels are simulated as being sung by performers located on the upper deck, which would have represented Heaven.  The Virgin Mary is located on the deck representing Earth in order to indicate her transition from Earth to Heaven. Thomas was located at street level.  The changes in source position for this soundscape are meant to demonstrate what could have been the acoustical effects of changes in performers’ positions.

Stonegate 3 wagon 3 B3-1The polyphonic pieces were performed by Jennifer Bird, Nancy Cole, Bethan Thomas and Kate Thomas.  The Virgin Mary was performed by Kate Thomas and Thomas by Thomas Straszewski.

wagon with textYFT clr logo


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