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Feedback PHEND project - February 2023

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

"The Past Has Ears at Notre-Dame"

At the request of Sarabeth Mullins, doctoral student in heritage acoustics at the Sorbonne, four of our singers (Branislav Rakic, Igor Bouin, Olivier Germond and Raphaël Boulay) took part in an experience of recordings of the Notre-Dame de Paris repertoire in an anechoic chamber located on the Jussieu campus in Paris, with the "Lutheries - Acoustic - Music" LAM team from the Jean Le Rond d'Alembert institute. The PHEND project focuses on the digital reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris, examining its evolution and importance in history, and working with the restoration team on its future.

It was a second experience of this type for the singers of Diabolus since they had already participated in such recordings in Marseille with a repertoire from Avignon for the IMAPI project led by Julien Ferrando.

Anechoic chamber? It is a deaf room, without echo, a kind of cube dissociated from its environment whose walls absorb sound waves, which makes it possible to carry out many experiments in acoustics. The designer of this room Steven Orfield said: “We challenge people to stand there for an hour in the dark […] In the silence, the ears adapt. The quieter the room, the more you will hear. You will hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, your stomach gurgling loudly. In an anechoic chamber, you become the sound […]” .

For our experiment, we sang three excerpts from the repertoire of Notre-Dame from different periods, a plainsong from a Parisian breviary from the beginning of the 13th century, the beginning of Viderunt omnes by Pérotin, a motet from the end of the 14th century by Aubert Billart, clerk and chaplain of Notre-Dame.

These three excerpts were sung three times in a row and linked together in different acoustic situations by simulating special headphones. Then at the end, each singer had to answer a questionnaire on his feelings, on the influence of acoustics in the interpretation of each extract, etc. For two days, they sang the same excerpts 180 times! Interesting but very trying experience, a big congratulations to them...

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