Notre-Dame Whispers

The immersive soundwalk

Notre-Dame Whispers is a cultural and scientific mediation device produced as part of the PHEND “The Past Has Ears at Notre-Dame” (ANR-20-CE38-0014) and PHE “The Past Has Ears” (EU JPI-CH 20-JPIC-0002-FS) multidisciplinary research projects.

REDISCOVERING NOTRE-DAME THROUGH SOUND

ENHANCING THE CATHEDRAL’S SONIC IDENTITY

Sorbonne University and Talkartive launch “Notre-Dame Whispers”, a unique immersive sound walk that invites visitors to rediscover the Parisian monument by immersing themselves in its sonic and musical history.

A smartphone to download the free application Ekko of Notre-Dame de Paris, a pair of headphones, and Notre-Dame herself transports you into her most vibrant memories…
The ones that can be heard.

MEET UP AT POINT ZERO OF FRENCH ROADS.

6 geolocated stations around the monument, bring the past to life. Notre-Dame immerses visitors in the effervescence of its memory: its construction site in the Middle Ages, a concert by its great organ, the very first polyphonic chants in the 1200s, the ringing of its bells… 12 memories shared in total intimacy!

A tour designed to combine sight-seeing and listening. At each station, visitors can observe parts of the monument that form the starting point for the stories told by the Old Lady. A moment out of time that visitors can share with the Paris landmark to which they are most attached…

EKKO OF NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS : THE APP

YOUR VISIT COMPANION

At the core of “Notre-Dame Whispers” is the Ekko of Notre-Dame de Paris app, the experience medium designed to take visitors on a quest that immerses them in the cathedral’s sonic history.

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A GAMIFIED EXPERIENCE TO ENGAGE VISITORS

Throughout the tour, visitors are invited to collect memories of Notre-Dame and immerse themselves in strikingly realistic sound worlds.

Their journey is symbolized by a stylized rose inspired by the stained glass windows of cathedrals, with medallions illustrating each memory recounted. By collecting them, visitors gradually fill in the Rose des Souvenirs de Notre-Dame and rebuild the cathedral’s sonic memory.

SCIENCE AT WORK IN THE MEMORIES OF NOTRE-DAME :

The PHEND research project “The Past Has Ears at Notre-Dame” has set itself the task of documenting and studying the sonic and musical identity of Notre-Dame over the centuries by bringing together various disciplines such as musicology, acoustics, history, architecture and archaeology of the soundscape. The product of their work forms the sound material of Notre-Dame Whispers. It is based on work carried out by several Sorbonne University institutes (IReMus, the Jean le rond ∂’Alembert institute, the André Chastel centre), the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Lyon/Saint Etienne, and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris.

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Different architectural states of Notre-Dame de Paris. © S. S. Mullins

Construction of Notre-Dame began in the spring of 1163. In 1182, the high altar was consecrated, and work continued on the other side of a transitional wall made of earth and lime. The cathedral chapter performed its rites in the choir of the unfinished building. In 1220, the central nave was completed. Major architectural changes were then undertaken, including reconfiguring the windows and attic spaces along the clerestory, extending the transept arms, creating the great roses, and adding 35 side chapels around the building. The group’s research focuses on studying the impact of these architectural changes on the cathedral’s acoustics, using acoustic modeling techniques. These different states of the monument have determined the choice of the different memories narrated in Notre-Dame Whispers.

S. S. Mullins, E. K. Canfield-Dafilou, and B. F. G. Katz, “The development of the early acoustics of the chancel in Notre-Dame de Paris: 1160-1230”, in Symp The Acoustics of Ancient Theatres, (Verona), pp. 1–4, 2022.

E. K. Canfield-Dafilou, S. S. Mullins, and B. F. G. Katz, “Opening the lateral chapels and the acoustics of Notre-Dame de Paris: 1225–1330”, in Symp The Acoustics of Ancient Theatres, (Verona), pp. 1–4, 2022.

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Reconstruction of the interior of the cathedral in the 15th century © Blender model produced by the SUNMETRON architecture agency.

The cathedral has resonated differently throughout its history, as its architecture, furnishings and decoration have changed. The stories in which visitors are immersed take account of these variations and place them in acoustic environments that have been verified by scientists. For example, a recollection taking place in 1200 in the cathedral’s closed chevet, or another taking place in 1400 in the finished nave, gives a completely different perception of space and sound.

B. F. G. Katz, D. Murphy, and A. Farina, “PHE : The Past Has Ears project overview”, in Symp The Acoustics of Ancient Theatres, (Verona), pp. 1–4, 2022, (url).

B. N. Postma and B. F. G. Katz, “Perceptive and objective evaluation of calibrated room acoustic simulation auralizations,” J Acoust Soc Am, vol. 140, pp. 4326–4337, Dec. 2016, doi:10.1121/1.4971422

B. N. Postma and B. F. G. Katz, “Creation and calibration method of virtual acoustic models for historic auralizations,” Virtual Reality, vol. 19, no. SI: Spatial Sound, pp. 161–180, 2015, doi:10.1007/s10055-015-0275-3.

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Sound recording at Guédelon, in the carpenters’ lodge. Mylène Pardoen, MSH Lyon/St-Etienne

The soundscapes that surround the memories of Notre-Dame are also the fruit of scientific research. They are the result of historiographical research and field recordings to collect a historically valid corpus to create the most realistic sound scenes possible. In this way, the researchers could recreate the soundscapes of the cathedral’s medieval construction site, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s restoration site, and the sound of the plenum of Notre-Dame’s 18th-century bells. The recordings were made on the construction site of Guédelon Castle and in the belfry of Sens Cathedral.

M. Pardoen & M. Guesney, “A l’écoute de Notre-Dame. Die Soundscape der Pariser Kathedrale. Jahrhundert,” in Musiktheorie, Virtual sound spaces of the pre-modern. An interdisciplinary research field of digital humanities, T. Weißmann (Ed.), Laaber Verlag, Lilienthal, 1, pp. 55-63, 2022.

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The “Rue des Chantres” ensemble in the anechoic chamber of the Jean le Rond d’Alembert laboratory recording a medieval polyphonic chant in the acoustics of the virtually simulated Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. © S. S. Mullins

To create the illusion that a voice has been produced in a different acoustic space from the one in which it was actually recorded, the researchers and engineers in the PHEND group use a technique called “auralisation”. This method was used, for example, to ‘project’ the songs recorded in the studio in the Notre-Dame du 1200, which has now disappeared.

D. Poirier-Quinot, P. Stitt, B.F.G. Katz, « RoomZ: Spatial panning plugin for dynamic RIR convolution auralisations », AES Intl Conf Spatial and Immersive Audio, 2023-08-23

D. Poirier-Quinot, P. Stitt, B.F.G. Katz, « B. F. G. Katz, J.-M. Lyzwa, and D. Poirier-Quinot, “La Vierge 2020 : Reconstructing a virtual concert performance Through Historic Auralisation of Notre-Dame Cathedral”, in Intl Conf 3D Audio (I3DA), pp. 1–9, 2021, doi:10.1109/I3DA48870.2021.9610849.

THE SECRET OF IMMERSIVE STORYTELLING

VOICES THAT TRANSPORT VISITORS

Victor Hugo gave body to Notre-Dame by making it the protagonist of his novel, Notre-Dame Whispers was to give it a voice. A top-quality cast pushed back the boundaries of voice dubbing and embraced the codes of theatre and sound fiction.

Évelyne Grandjean as Notre-Dame de Paris.

Whether on stage, in front of the camera or in the production studio, Evelyne Grandjean’s career is as long as it is impressive. An actress, scriptwriter and radio host, she has played opposite Pierre Desproges and Thierry Leluron. In Notre-Dame Whispers, she aptly humanises the figure of Notre-Dame de Paris by playing a grandmother who is by turns noble and close to people, intelligent and mischievous.

A real treat…

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Évelyne Grandjean (actress) and Stéphanie Peichert (artistic director) during the recording of the voices for Notre-Dame Whispers.

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Sound recording with an acoustic head in Sens Cathedral.

IMMERSION THANKS TO BINAURAL SOUND

The sound material visitors listen to has been recorded with special microphones. These may be ambisonic microphones or artificial heads that capture the sound field binaurally, in other words in the same way as human ears. Other sounds are spatialized in post-production using binaural mixing software tools.

This technique restores the natural listening experience when reproduced through headphones or earphones, and provides incomparable spatialisation of sound scenes.

THEY TOOK PART IN THE NOTRE-DAME WHISPERS PROJECT

PHEND
The Past Has Ears at Notre-Dame
NOTRE-DAME WHISPERS
sur l’application Ekko of Notre-Dame de Paris

PRODUCTION EXÉCUTIVE
Brian F.G. Katz — CNRS, Sorbonne Université

PRODUCTION
Stéphanie Peichert — Talkartive

SCÉNARIO ET DIRECTION ARTISTIQUE
Stéphanie PEICHERT — Talkartive

RÉALISATION
Julien De Muynke — Sorbonne Université
Stéphanie Peichert — Talkartive

AVEC LES VOIX DE
Evelyne Grandjean – Philippe Catoire – Samuel Charle.

DESIGN DE L’APP Ekko of Notre-Dame de Paris
Arthur Retrou — Talkartive

DÉVELOPPEMENT DE L’APP Ekko of Notre-Dame de Paris
Ángel Ramirez

ILLUSTRATIONS
Erell Piette — Talkartive

OFFICE MANAGER
Valérie Haas — Talkartive

COMMUNICATION
Sarah Abdelaziz – Marion Gomes

PRISE DE SON
Julien De Muynke – Antony Farran

MONTAGE & MIXAGE 3D
Julien De Muyncke

CONSEIL SCIENTIFIQUE
Dany Sandron – Cristina Dagalita – Brian F.G. Katz – Sarabeth S. Mullins – Elliot K. Canfield-Dafilou – Mylène Pardoen – Martin Guesney – Frédéric Billiet – Valérie Le Page – Christophe d’Alessandro – Beatrice Caseau

PAYSAGES SONORES & ENREGISTREMENTS SCIENTIFIQUES
Mylène Pardoen – Martin Guesney – Elliot K. Canfield-Dafilou – Sarabeth S. Mullins – Julien De Muynke

PERFORMANCES MUSICALES
Rue des Chantres (Erwan Picquet, Christian Ploix, Vincent Pislar, Renaud Tripathi)
Valérie Le Page et le choeur d’enfants (Eustache Boisseau, Kelian Delenda-Materi, Jamal Guerdjou, Erdem Elis Kaya, Wael Ounis, Thevimiththiran Tambiah, Anton Vaysse-Knitter)
Christophe d’Alessandro

MODÉLISATION ACOUSTIQUE 3D
Sarabeth S. Mullins – Elliot K. Canfield-Dafilou – Julien De Muynke

LOGICIELS DE SPATIALISATION
Spat Revolution – DearVR Pro
IEM plugin suite – RoomZ

MOTEUR DE MODÉLISATION ACOUSTIQUE
CATT-Acoustic

CATHEDRALE

Special thanks to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris personnel for their assistance and patience during measurements before the fire. Access for researchers to the cathedral’s restoration worksite has been made possible thanks to the public administrative establishment responsible for the conservation and restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris.

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