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Dr. Doyuen Ko receives grant for Nashville aural preservation project

Dr. Doyuen Ko, assistant professor of Audio Engineering Technology at Belmont University, received a grant for $350,000 to preserve the aural heritage of some of Nashville’s most iconic and important studios.

The project involves finding a way to virtually capture the acoustic properties of a musical space, analyzing those methods and capturing said properties in a way that they can be digitally replicated to allow access to future researchers.

“It is an important project,” said Ko. “We must do it now without delay. There is an urgency to preserve these studios, these studios are being demolished every couple months to make way for new buildings.”

The grant, which comes from the National Endowment of Humanities, will fund the collaborative project by allowing the researchers to “digitally replicate the acoustics of three historic structures, including Columbia recording studios A and B on Music Row — which Belmont owns and operates — to establish protocols for preserving the aural heritage of culturally significant sites,” according to the Music Row website.

Starting May 29, Ko — along with Rochester Institute of Technology professor Dr. Sungyoung Kim and aural heritage consultant Dr. Miriam Kolar —  will begin “comparing all of the capturing methodologies, make documentation of those, and then choose the most reasonable capturing method,” said Ko.

The first studios they will replicate will be Columbia Studio A and Quonset Hut Studios, which is now known as Columbia Studio B.

“The project took almost four years of preparation,” said Ko, “and there is urgency, especially in Nashville, where these building booms are happening right now.”

As the greater Nashville area continues to grow, more and more historic sites are being torn down to make way for newer developments.

“I was hearing sad news that these studios were being demolished,” said Ko. “I wanted to develop an aural heritage capture protocol, not just about capturing and saving, but making a process that can be replicated, that everyone can use.”

This isn’t the first time Ko has taken on this type of project. He previously worked on “The Digital Haydn” project, which involved capturing the acoustic properties of spaces where Joseph Haydn’s sonatas were originally recorded.

“An artist wanted to record all of the Haydn keyboard sonatas in the original place where Haydn could have played for each instrument and each piece,” Ko said. “I got the idea to capture the acoustic properties of these spaces and bring them to the studio instead of traveling with these instruments all over Europe.”

There are many uses for this type of project, ranging from research to historical preservation to entertainment. The process could be used to create a virtual tour of Music Row in virtual reality, or to make a virtual library of historical acoustic spaces. For example, bands playing in a studio could have their recordings sound like they are on stage at Nashville’s own Ryman Auditorium.

In the future, Ko plans to use this methodology to capture other places around the world, such as particular spaces in Peru and New York, along with other old buildings and churches.

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This article written by Colby Crosby. Photo courtesy of Belmont’s Office of Communications.

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