Questions for ‘Giving Notre Dame back her unique voice’

Notre Dame de Paris

An April 2019 fire destroyed most of the interior of Notre Dame in Paris, France. Now scientists are working to figure out how rebuilders might bring back the iconic cathedral — and the church’s famed sound.

Hemis/Alamy Stock Photo

To accompany feature “Giving Notre Dame back her unique voice


Before Reading:

1.  When you walk with hard-soled shoes or boots through a church, museum hall or nearly empty dance hall, what does it sound like? How different is this sound from what you’d hear when you walk across the kitchen floor in your home?

2.  Why do you think that “sound” scientists are getting involved in the rebuilding of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris?

During Reading

1.  What is reverberance?

2.  How old is Notre Dame and what does its full name mean?

3.  What is heritage acoustics and how does it differ from regular acoustics research?

4.  What contributes to a cathedral’s acoustics? And how does an echo differ from a reverberation?

5.  How might Notre Dame’s acoustics have contributed to the development of harmony?

6.  What is the significance of sound recordings made by Brian Katz’s team on April 24, 2013? How might the data collected be used in the future?

7.  How long was the reverberation time for a pitch of middle C at Notre Dame?

8.  Katz’s team made what it describes as an “auralization” of Notre Dame. What does that mean?

9.  How is Mylène Pardoen attempting to reproduce the sounds people might have heard in Notre Dame centuries ago? She’s also coupling this work with efforts to create a “soundscape” of the cathedral and of Paris. Describe such a soundscape.

10.  What kind of data or information is she using to collect the sounds that will be included?

After Reading:

1.  Various scientists are putting a lot of effort into figuring out how to guide a rebuilding of Notre Dame so that the new version will sound much as it used to. This research isn’t free. In fact, all of the research and analyses that will go into making those rebuilding guidelines could be costly. Do you think this is a good use of money and time? Explain your reasoning.

2.  What other efforts could heritage acoustics be used for? Give examples of several different environments or structures where physicists might develop auralizations to better understand or recreate sounds of the past.

3.  Using data from the story, what’s the typical reverberation time for sounds in a living room, in a concert hall and in Notre Dame? On a percentage basis, how much longer are the reverbations for the concert hall and Notre Dame than those in a living room? Show your work.