Whether people’s experiences with acoustics occur in a secular space like a concert hall or a religious space like a temple, they intuitively understand that a building can have a profound effect on the sounds generated inside of it. Dr. Marehalli Prasad of the Department of Mechanical Engineering has made significant contributions to research in acoustics and vibration, and he has always been fascinated by the role of sound in religious practice. The Acoustical Society of India and French Acoustical Society (SFA) have recently selected him to deliver the prestigious MS Narayanan Memorial Lecture at ACOUSTICS2013: International Conference on Acoustics. Dr. Prasad has chosen for the subject of his speech the acoustics of chants, conch shells, bells and gongs in Hindu worship spaces. He will deliver the lecture during the conference period of November 10-15 at CSIR National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi, India.
“This memorial lecture invitation is reserved for individuals who have made substantial contributions to acoustics, and Dr. Prasad’s selection for this distinguished lecture offers a valuable opportunity to share his expertise,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science.
“Dr. Prasad's work in noise reduction and acoustical design has helped to profoundly advance the understanding and application of acoustics to benefit society,” says Dr. Frank Fisher, Interim Director of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
According to Dr. Prasad, “Sound can be manipulated and harnessed for numerous useful practical purposes, but it is also very interesting because of its role in music, culture and worship. Sacred sounds go hand in hand with sacred spaces.”
People dating back to ancient times have designed their sacred spaces to be visually pleasing or awe-inspiring. However, it may have been equally important to design houses of worship with sound in mind. The size, shape and constituent materials of a building create unique acoustic experiences for attending congregations, and the acoustical properties of many sacred spaces seem to closely correspond to their liturgical purposes. For instance, the reverberation and echo found in abundance in religious buildings have a widespread symbolic significance to various societies. In countless films and television programs, the disembodied voice of a god reverberates from the sky. One can sympathize then if, as Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter suggest in their book Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?, early humans considered echoes "the sounds or even voices of spirits from a world beyond."
Conducting a detailed investigation of acoustic phenomena in sacred spaces, Dr. Prasad has narrowed his focus to chants and three instruments of sound that are found in Hindu worship: conch shells, bells and gongs. Bells are also prominent in Christian churches, and Gongs are also used in Buddhist practice. Other similar instruments appear in many different religious traditions, such as the shofar or ram’s horn that is used in some synagogue services. In the course of his research, Dr. Prasad visited and measured several Hindu temples in addition to recording and analyzing sounds of the three instruments in each. He will present the results of his research in the memorial lecture.
In addition to the memorial lecture, Dr. Prasad is also presenting three more papers on acoustical studies on corrugated pipes, noise control strategies for DG sets and musical pillars of Hindu temples.
The Acoustics 2013 New Delhi Conference will gather hundreds of acoustical experts, students and practicing specialists. It will be a unique platform for Indian, French and international industries, academic Institutions, enforcing authorities, medical fraternities etc. to meet, exchange and trigger future collaborative projects.
Dr. Prasad has a long history of significant contributions to the field of acoustics. He founded the Noise and Vibration Control Laboratory at Stevens in 1984, installing anechoic and reverberation chambers to study sound waves. In 2006, he was elected a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America for his pioneering work with ducts and mufflers. In 2010, he was honored with the Bharat Gaurav (Pride of India) Award by the Indian International Friendship Society. Dr. Prasad is also a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and Acoustical Society of India (ASI). He is a director of Institute of Noise Control Engineering. He has worked as a Noise Control Expert for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and chaired ASME Technical Committee on Duct Acoustics.
About the Department of Mechanical Engineering
The Department of Mechanical Engineering confidently addresses the challenges facing engineering now and into the future, yet remains true to the vision of the founders of Stevens Institute in 1870 as one of the first engineering schools in the nation. The department mission is to produce graduates with a broad-based foundation in fundamental engineering principles and liberal arts together with the depth of disciplinary knowledge needed to succeed in a career in mechanical engineering or a related field, including a wide variety of advanced technological and management careers.
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