Notre Dame: Artists & Artisans Tell their Stories through their Materials — Materially Speaking

materially Speaking I recently became aware of Materially Speaking. It’s a podcast and a very interesting one at that. Sarah Monk and I started talking about what they do and here is the result. This article is specifically about their Notre Dame work, but I’ll have some more interesting podcasts for you to listen to, and to read about soon. Watch out for them.

A reminder: context

On 15th April 2019, a catastrophic fire broke out in Notre Dame Cathedral. Parisians watched in horror as the spire fell and most of the roof was destroyed. In the aftermath, it became clear that a large area was contaminated with toxic dust and lead.

The iconic building, which has dominated the Île de la Cité island in Paris since the Middle Ages, is a national symbol not only for the French but for people all over the world.

President Macron pledged to build back the cathedral as it was before, and as the planned reopening in December 2024 looms, a huge office structure has mushroomed around it and 500 workers are on site daily as the team race to rebuild it.

The eyes of the world are watching, but Materially Speaking has a story for our ears – the story of its sound.

Meet extraordinary musicians, archeologists, and artisans

Materially Speaking has been asking artists and artisans to tell their stories through the materials they choose to work with since 2019.

In a relatively recent episode (58) they tell the story of restoring the acoustics at Notre Dame de Paris after the fire.

Art Critic and philosopher Boris Groys says that although thought of as immaterial and invisible, sound can induce a material sense of space. We also think it can trigger emotions and create reverence.

For us this story is personal said Sarah Monk. My father, Christopher Monk, (according to his obituary one of the best-loved figures in the world of early music) restored and played the serpent which accompanied plainsong in Notre-Dame. Co-producer Mike has a background in sound in Hollywood, and was very keen to meet the acoustic team.

We were honoured to interview the team in charge of acoustics for the restoration, a key member of the architectural team, a sound archaeologist and musicians who specialise in performing compositions that were written for, and often performed for the first time in, Notre-Dame.


Read the entire story and listen to the podcast

I hope you enjoy this very special episode, Notre-Dame: An acoustic reconstruction

Thank you to Sarah Monk and all involved in Materially Speaking


About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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