THE sounds of a concert that may have been played at a royal palace more than 500 years ago have been recreated through technology dubbed a “musical time machine”.

Researchers used virtual reality and groundbreaking acoustic techniques to capture how music would have sounded when played in the now ruined chapel at Linlithgow Palace – royal residence of the Stewarts in the 15th and 16th centuries and the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.

Scholars from the Edinburgh College of Art and the universities of Birmingham and Melbourne collaborated with Historic Environment Scotland (HES) on the project.

They used a technique called Lidar scanning to capture the Chapel Royal of Linlithgow Palace in West Lothian as it currently stands.

The team consulted historical and architectural records and worked with historians at HES to virtually reconstruct what the chapel might have looked like when James IV visited for Easter celebrations around 1512, adding elements to recreate the acoustics of the space such as the roof, windows, a tiled floor and objects including an altar, throne and drapes. 

The researchers then chose music which may have been performed in the space and selected some from the Carver Choirbook – one of only two large-scale collections of music to survive from pre-Reformation Scotland. Professional singers from The Binchois Consort recorded the music in an anechoic chamber which was then overlaid with the reconstructed acoustic modelling of the chapel.

Kit Reid, senior interpretation manager at HES, said: “What makes this project so special is the emphasis on not just the visual recreation but also the recreation of the authentic soundscape which gives an immersive insight into the court life at the palace over 500 years ago.”