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Centre for Acoustic and Musical Experiments in Renaissance Architecture (CAMERA)

CAMERA was established as a focus for research into the relationship between architectural space and musical performance in the Renaissance, particularly Italy.  The first three years of the research (2005-8) were supported principally by the AHRC under the title

Architecture and Music in Renaissance Venice

Project director: Professor Deborah Howard

Research Associate: Dr Laura Moretti  (now at the University of St Andrews

This three-year research project, funded by the AHRC, set out to explore to what extent the subtleties of acoustics were understood by Venetian architects of the Renaissance and how far composers of music responded to the acoustic conditions of the city’s churches.   It sought to show how the forms and materials of the interiors - mosaic domes, gothic vaults, flat painted ceilings and carved wooden choir stalls, all with different acoustic properties – affected the performance of sacred music during the period of the Counter Reformation.  The project involved collaboration with two well-known acoustic laboratories: Arup Acoustics in Cambridge, and the Laboratorio di Acustica Musicale at the Fondazione Scuola di San Giorgio in Venice.

Our research was based on a sample of twelve Venetian churches of various types (the ducal chapel of San Marco, monasteries and friaries, parish churches and orphanages).   During the project we gathered scientific measurements of the acoustics of the churches and carried out choral experiments in situ using the choir of St John’s College Cambridge. Audience questionnaires as well as the reactions of the singers provided additional data.


On 8th-9th September 2005 a full international conference was held at the Fondazione Cini in Venice with contributions by architectural historians, musicologists and acousticians.  

On 28th-29th September 2006 the same group of speakers, joined by a few additional experts, met for a workshop at the Faculty of Music in Cambridge, kindly funded by the British Academy. 


Follow-up projects

[1] Auralisations

In 2009-10, an MPhil dissertation by Braxton Boren, ‘Music, Architecture and Acoustics in Renaissance Venice: Recreating Lost Soundscapes’, was supervised by Professor Malcolm Longair in the Cavendish Laboratory.  Boren made virtual reconstructions of four of the churches considered in Howard and Moretti’s Sound & Spacein Renaissance Venice.  The virtual models were calibrated against the measured acoustic properties of the selected churches and then used to test modifications brought about by effects such as later changes to the architecture, the addition of tapestries and hangings, and large congregations in heavy robes.

[2] Spaces for domestic music-making

On 9th July 2009 we held a conference at CRASSH, University of Cambridge entitled Sound, Space and Object, funded by the British AcademySee


Grants received 

AHRC Research Grant (1st Feb 2005 – 31st Jan 2008) £197,623

-       The final report of the AHRC project was rated ‘outstanding’ by the AHRC

-       Shortlisted for the RIBA research prize

Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, New York (awarded 31st March 2004; ref. RGST/Pid. No. 7569/AID no 19416) $5000

British Academy Small Research Grant (awarded 7 December 2005, ref. SG-42078)  £3976

St John’s College, Barrère Fund (awarded 5th October 2006) £5000

British Academy Small Research Grant (awarded 30th March 2009, ref. no. 53407) £5320

UROP grant of £2000 from Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge for data analysis of the questionnaires 

Sponsorship in the form of services rendered by Arup Acoustics UK and the Laboratorio di Acustica Musicale e Architettonica, Fondazione Scuola di San Giorgio, Venice

Sponsorship in the form of publicity for choral experiments in Venice, April 2007, from Chorus Cultura, Venice  


Principal publications


[1] Deborah Howard & Laura Moretti (eds.) , Architettura e musica nella Venezia del Rinascimento, Milan: Bruno Mondadori, 2006

Awarded Stroud Bursary of £500 by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain

[2] Laura Moretti, Dagli Incurabili alla Pietà. Le chiese degli Ospedali Grandi di Venezia tra architettura e musica, Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2008 

[3] Deborah Howard & Laura Moretti, Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice: Architecture, Music, Acoustics, Yale University Press, 2009

The music tracks of selected choral experiments are to be found on

  • Awarded honourable mention in the ‘Music & the Performing Arts’ category of the 2009 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (The PROSE Awards).  
  • Shortlisted for Society of Authors Banister Fletcher prize.


[4] Deborah Howard and Laura Moretti (eds), The Music Room in Early Modern France and Italy: Sound, Space and Object (Proceedings of the British Academy vol. 176) (based on conference held at CRASSH, Cambridge, July 2009), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Including: D. Howard, ‘Introduction’, pp. 1-15; eadem, ‘The role of music in the Venetian home in the Cinquecento’,  pp. 95-114; L. Moretti, ‘Spaces for Musical Performance in the Este Court in Ferrara (c.1440–1540), pp. 213-36.



[1] Laura Moretti, ‘Andrea Palladio e la chiesa dell’Ospedaletto a Venezia’, in F. Barbieri, D. Battilotti, G. Beltramini, A. Bruschi, H. Burns, F.P. Fiore, C.L. Frommel, M. Gaiani, P. Gros, C. Hind, D. Howard, F. Marías, W. Oechslin, L. Puppi (eds), Proceedings of the International Conference ‘Andrea Palladio 1508-2008. Simposio del Cinquecentenario’, Venice: Marsilio, 2008, pp. 300-4.

[2] Laura Moretti, ‘”Quattro venerandi templi d’Euterpe”: les églises des Ospedali Grandi durant la République vénitienne’, in L. Gauthier, M. Traversier (eds), Mélodies urbaines. La musique dans les villes européennes, XVIe-XIXe siècles, Paris: Presses Universitaire Paris-Sorbonne, 2008, pp. 177-99 

[3] Davide Bonsi, Malcolm Longair, Philip Garsed and Raf Orlowski, ‘Acoustic and audience response of eleven Venetian churches’, Acoustics ’08, Paris, 2008, pp, 3087-3092 ISBN 987-2-9521105 

 [4] Laura Moretti, ‘Andrea Palladio e la chiesa dell’Ospedaletto a Venezia’, in F. Barbieri, D. Battilotti, G. Beltramini, A. Bruschi, H. Burns, F.P. Fiore, C.L. Frommel, M. Gaiani, P. Gros, C. Hind, D. Howard, F. Marías, W. Oechslin, L. Puppi (eds), Proceedings of the International Conference ‘Andrea Palladio 1508-2008. Simposio del Cinquecentenario’, Venice: Marsilio, 2008, pp. 300-4.

[5] Deborah Howard, ‘Reflections on Palladio’s soave armonia’, in ‘Some degree of happiness’: Studi di storia dell’architettura in onore di Howard Burns, ed. Maria Beltramini and Caroline Elam Pisa: Scuola Normale, 2010, pp. 383-92

 [6] Laura Moretti, ‘Musica e architettura alla “corte” di Alvise Cornaro nel primo Cinquecento’, in F. Pezzopane (ed.), Proceedings of the International Conference ‘I luoghi e la musica’, Rome: ISMEZ, 2010, pp 117-28

[7] Laura Moretti, 'Musica e architettura alla "corte" di Alvise Cornaro nel primo Cinquecento', in F. Pezzopane (ed.), Proceedings of the International Conference 'I luoghi e la musica', Rome: ISMEZ, 2010, pp 117-28.

[7] Laura Moretti, 'Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice', in  Rhythmus. Harmonie. Proportion, ed. S. Brandt &  A. Gottdang, Worms : Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, 2012, pp. 87-90.

[8] Davide Bonsi, Boren B; Howard D; Longair M; Moretti L; Orlowski R  ‘Acoustic and Audience Response Analyses of Eleven Venetian Churches’, Acoustics in Practice, Vol. 1, No. 1, July 2013, pages 39-52

[9] Braxton Boren, Malcolm Longair, Raf Orlowski, ‘Acoustic Simulation of Renaissance Venetian Churches’, Acoustics in Practice, Vol. 1, No. 2, October 2013, 17-28



The research was first presented to the acoustic scientific community (European Acoustics Association, Société Française Acoustique and the Acoustic Society of America) at the congress Acoustics ’08 on Wednesday 2nd July by Davide Bonsi in a paper entitled , ‘Acoustic and audience response of eleven Venetian churches’,

Deborah Howard was invited to give a lecture entitled ‘Architecture and Music in Palladio’s Churches’, on 27th February 2009, during the Palladio exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and contributed an article to the Royal Academy’s magazine: ‘Citizens of the Serenissima’, Art Quarterly, Winter 2008, pp. 56-8.

Laura Moretti was interviewed by Tom Service about the book Sound and Space in Renaissance Venice on BBC Radio 3 Music Matters on Saturday 20th February 2010  See  

Malcolm Longair was interviewed on ‘Acoustic Archaeology’ for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire  on 20th December 2009. For a transcript see

He was interviewed again on ‘Acoustic Archaeology’ for Radio 3’s In Tune on 20th October 2011.  

His lecture to the Royal Society, London, ‘ Music, architecture and acoustics in Renaissance Venice: Recreating lost soundscapes’ on 21st October 2011 was a sell-out.

Braxton Boren’s presentation at the 162nd meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) in San Diego, California, October 31–November 4, 2011


 aroused international media interest:

-       Scientific American

-       Science


-       Discover Magazine

-       Newswise

-       I-Stock Analyst

-       Archaeological News


On 26th January 2011, Howard gave a public lecture to the York Early Music Centre in St Margaret's Church, Walmgate, on ‘Listening to Architectural Space’

On 31st August 2011 Howard was invited to lecture at the Festival Oudemusik in Utrecht ; this ten-day annual early music festival drew 50,000 visitors in 2011 to 120 events on the theme ‘Rome Città Eterna’.  

Howard’s lecture opened the session hosted by Antwerp-based early music specialist Björn Schmelzer, director of the ensemble Graindelavoix.  

The Sunday (Christmas Day) edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 25th December 2011, p. 51, featured a whole-page article on the project’s research by Helga Rietz, including interviews with Deborah Howard and Braxton Boren.

Deborah Howard was interviewed by Koen Uvin of Flemish Radio (Vlaamse Radio) for the Klara programme on Adriaan Willaert (music master at St Mark’s, Venice), broadcast on 15th January 2012.

Deborah Howard was interviewed for Mark Shepheard’s  Early  Music Programme, on Melbourne's classical radio station, 3MBS FM, broadcast on 29th March 2012 (average listening figures 300,000)

The following papers developing the research have been delivered by Braxton Boren, now at NYU.

  • Braxton Boren, Boren, B. (2014). Acoustic reconstruction of architectural and musical space. Proceedings of Pallas and the Muses: Dialogues Between Science and Art, Guanajuato, Mexico.
  • Boren, B. & Longair, M. (2012). Acoustic simulation of the church of San Francesco della Vigna.
  • Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics: 164th Conference of the Acoustical Society of America, Kansas City, MO.
  • Boren, B. & Longair, M. (2011). A Method for Acoustic Modeling of Past Soundscapes. The Conference on the Acoustics of Ancient Theatres, Patras, Greece.