Bissera V. Pentcheva's innovative work on acoustics, art, and music has redefined the field of Byzantine architecture and is now expanding into Western medieval art. Her new research explores the visions of Ste. Foy at Conques developed in the interactions across art, music, poetry, and dance. The project is funded by Stanford's Cultivating the Humanities Grant, https://enchantedimages.stanford.edu
Pentcheva has published three books with Pennsylvania State University Press: Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium, 2006 (received the Nicholas Brown Prize of the Medieval Academy of America, 2010), The Sensual Icon: Space, Ritual, and the Senses in Byzantium, 2010, and Hagia Sophia: Sound, Space and Spirit in Byzantium, 2017 (received the 2018 American Academy of Religion Award in excellence in historical studies). She has edited two volumes: Aural Architecture in Byzantium: Music, Acoustics, and Ritual, Ashgate 2018 and Icons of Sound: Architecture, Music and Imagination in Medieval Art, Routledge, Routledge 2020. Her work is informed by anthropology, music, and phenomenology, placing the attention on the changing appearance of objects and architectural spaces. She relies on film to capture this temporal animation stirred by candlelight. Another important strand of her work engages the sonic envelope of the visual--music and acoustics--and employs auralizations that digitally imprint the performance of chant with the acoustic signature of the specific interior for which it was composed. Her current book project explores the art and music of Ste. Foy at Conques. Pentcheva's research has been supported by a number of prestigious fellowships: Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2018-2019), J. S. Guggenheim (2017-2018), American Academy in Rome (2017-2018), Mellon New Directions (2010-2012), Humboldt (2006-2009) and a Dumbarton Oaks Junior Fellowship (2000-2001).
“Performative Images and Cosmic Sound in the Exultet Liturgy of Southern Italy,” Speculum 95/2 (2020): 396–466, https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/708002
“Optical and Acoustic Aura in Medieval Art: The Golden Retable of the Pentecost at Stavelot,”Material Religion16/1 (2020): 1–30, https://doi.org/10.1080/17432200.2019.1696558
with Jonathan Abel, “Icons of Sound: Auralizing the Lost Voice of Hagia Sophia,” Speculum 92/S1 (2017)online publication, https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/693439
“Glittering Eyes: Animation in the Byzantine Eikōn and the Western Imago,” Codex Aqvilarensis 32 (2016): 209–26.
“Performing the Sacred in Byzantium: Image, Breath, and Sound,” PRI Performance Research International 19/3 (2014): 120–28.
“Hagia Sophia and Multisensory Aesthetics,” Gesta 50/2 (2011): 93–111.
“Moving Eyes: Surface and Shadow in the Byzantine Mixed-Media Relief Icon,” Res. Anthropology and Aesthetics 53 (2009): 223-34.
“The Performative Icon,” The Art Bulletin 88/4 (2006): 631-55.
Newspaper Articles, Radio, Podcasts, and Zoom Interviews
New York Times, July 30, 2020
Listen: The Sound Of The Hagia Sophia, More Than 500 Years Ago, February 20, 2020
California Sounds: New Year’s Music That Has not Been Heard in 500 Years, January 1, 2020
Kathimerini, April 13, 2020
Kathimerini July 17, 2020
Kathimerini, July, 21, 2020
American Academy of Religion, podcast, November 7, 2019
Asia House. Arts in Isolation Podcast, June 2020
Byzantium and Friends, podcast on Pentcheva’s book, Hagia Sophia, October 24, 2019
Women Scholars in Orthodoxy, podcast, August 17, 2020
“Hagia Sophia” zoom presentations at:
Dumbarton Oaks, April 1, 2021: https://www.doaks.org/research/byzantine/scholarly-activities/the-concept-and-experience-of-holy-wisdom-in-hagia-sophia
Cornell University, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79DACHU4X78&t=4509s, at 56:40 min
Stanford University, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvXmrRaOfrQ&t=2938s, at 34:25 min.
International Center for World Heritage Interpretation and Presentation, April 2021, http://youtube.com/watch?v=FwMx_q-OiZc&t=320s
Icons of Sound, 2008-present, interdisciplinary project co-directed with Jonathan Abel, CCRMA
Film on the Icon of the Archangel at San Marco, Venice