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SOUNDSPACE: How Processions Moved: Sound and Space in the Performance of Urban Ritual, c.1400–c.1700 
Project funded by: European Research Council, ERC–2021–ADG no. 101054069
Duration 5 years: 1 September 2022–31 August 2027
Host institution:  Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Budget: 2.499.554€
PI: Tess Knighton
Participants: 11 + advisory committee


Processions were quintessentially performative acts that infused a sense of social collectivity while at the same time creating and communicating awareness of the aura cultivated by civic and religious authorities to justify and maintain existing social structures and practices. The premise of the Soundspace project is that hermeneutic study of the procession as performance affords enhanced insight into the workings of society and the experience of everyday urban life. It aims to go beyond this to assess the impact of urban ritual on participants and spectators through analysis of the social and cultural processes that lay behind that experience, and of the perceptual discourses that gave it meaning and significance for all those present. Anthropological studies suggest that the aim of processions was to move the urban community, but how did this work in practice in the historical past? How can the historian enter into the performative moment? Understanding of the complex, multi-faceted relationship between sound, space, meaning and society must attempt to identify and evaluate the interstices between collective experience, social expectations and memory, as in present-day sound studies. The project aims to develop historical sound studies as an umbrella term for an innovative and experimental combination of disciplines—ritual and urban studies, sensory history and history of the emotions—and digital humanities tools, including Virtual Reality, digital cartography and semantic discourse analysis. It aims to forge a new theoretical and analytical framework to understand the social and cultural processes involved in the preparation, performance and reception of processions and thus the underlying social mechanisms that trigger the need for processional expression. The objective is to open up new ways to explore the impact of intangible but key features of processions such as acoustic space, soundscape competence, density of sensory experience and emotional response. 


Main lines of research

  •  To locate and analyse processional activity in the cities of Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia and Palma de Mallorca
  • To geolocate processional routes in relation to the topography of the cities using digital cartography
  • To study the relationship between sound and acoustic space key to the historical soundscape of the cities
  • To research all the spaces, buildings and intangible (movement, time passing) and material aspects of the litany processions held in Valencia in order to recuperate the various acoustic spaces involved in them together with intangible and tangible aspects to create a virtual reconstruction of the sensory (sonic) experience
  • To analyse and understand how various types of processions were mounted and performed, their function and how they were embedded in collective memory
  • To identify and analyse processional practice within the urban soundscape ecology
  • To analyse and map the density of urban ritual and the meanings it held for those participating, whether as performers or listeners/spectators
  • To assess the impact of urban ritual and, in particular, processions, on the inhabitants of the city from sensory and emotional perspectives
  • To develop a research methodology to understand the associations and meaning(s) generated by different processions for those present
  • To analyse the discourses relating to sounds/music and devotions as expressed through the procession


Research team

Principal investigator: Tess Knighton
Senior researchers

Postdoctoral researchers

Predoctoral researchers

Members of the Advisory Committee

  • Urban musicology, sound and gender studies: 
  • Mediterranean studies and material culture: 
    • Dinko Fabris (Università della Basilicata, Potenza)
    •  Joan-Lluis Palos (Universitat de Barcelona)
    • Pascale Rihouet (Paris–EHESS) 
  • Digital Humanities: 
    • James Cook (University of Edinburgh)
    • Kenny McAlpine (University of Melbourne)
    • Colin Rose (Brock University, Ontario)
    • Juan Ruiz Jiménez (Real Academia de las Bellas Artes de Granada)
  • Cultural history, theatre and textual studies: 
    • Matthew Champion (ACU, Melbourne) 
    • Ramón Valdés Vásquez (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona / Time Machine)
  • Computer science:
    • Ignacio José Lizarán Rus (Centro de Documentación Musical de Andalucía)




  • Tess Knighton, ‘Circulating Sound in the City: The Procession in the Context of Historical Sound Studies / La circulación del sonido en la ciudad: La procession en el contexto de los Historical Sound Studies’, Artigrama, 36 (2021), themed issue: ‘Internacionalización, movilidad y circlación de música’, 25–45