Paris as you have never heard it before! This novel experience is offered by Mylène Pardoen, a musicologist at the Passages XX-XXI laboratory,1 through the Bretez Project. The name is not without significance: the first historical audio reconstitution created by this team of historians, sociologists and specialists in 3D representations2 is set against the backdrop of 18th-century Paris as it appears in the famous Turgot-Bretez Map of 1739. Turgot was the provost of the merchants of Paris who commissioned the map, while Bretez was the engineer in charge of surveying the city’s streets and buildings.
70 sonic tableaux
More specifically, the 8’30” video takes the viewer to the heart of the Grand Châtelet district, between the Pont au Change and Pont Notre Dame bridges. “I chose that neighborhood because it concentrates 80% of the background sound environments of Paris in that era, whether through familiar trades—shopkeepers, craftsmen, boatmen, washerwomen on the banks of the Seine, etc.—or the diversity of acoustic possibilities, like the echo heard under a bridge or in a covered passageway,” Pardoen explains. While historical videos with soundtracks are nothing new, this is the first 3D reconstitution based solely on a sonic background: the quality of the sounds (muffled, amplified…) takes into account the heights of the buildings and their construction materials (stone, cob etc.).