Immerse Yourself in the Sounds of 18th Century Paris

Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube / Screenshot via YouTube

Paintings and drawings can give us an idea of what the cities of the past looked like, but they can’t give us the full picture of what it would be like to visit, say, Paris in the 1700s. But thanks to musicologist Mylène Pardoen, you can witness the sonic experience of a bustling 18th century city virtually.

Working at a University of Lyon lab called Passages XXI, she created a detailed soundscape of 18th century Paris focused on the Grand Châtelet district. Her work, highlighted by Open Culture and CNRS News, is based on historic documents from the time and scholarship from historians, including those specializing in urban architecture.

All the sounds were recorded with an ear for historic accuracy. Noises from machines (like looms or printing presses) were made with antique devices, and the sounds of livestock are from real animals. The only thing that was recreated artificially was the sound of a water pump, which required recording the noise of an antique water pump and then altering the sound to reflect the estimated size of the Notre Dame water pump in the 18th century. All in all, the soundscape, accompanied by 3D animations of the historic area, contains 70 different sounds that come together to form a complex sonic experience that includes everything from the sounds of crowds to barnyard animals to the buzzing of flies around a fishmonger’s stall.

It’s similar to a video game for history nerds, allowing you to delve into the aural experience of another time period. Designed as a prototype for museums, it may one day allow you to freely navigate with 360° animation, though it’s not currently interactive.

[h/t Open Culture]

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at