A sound journey through space and time, produced by NARRATIVE as part of the multidisciplinary research projects PHE and PHEND – The Past Has Ears at Notre-Dame – on the evolution of the acoustic history of the cathedral and its soundscapes through the centuries, available free to subscribers on AUDIBLE. Also available for direct listening here.

An immersive sound fiction

4 episodes in french et english

Listen to the teaser (7min 25s)

The immersive sound fiction “Looking for Notre-Dame” plunges you into the mind of the young Victor Hugo as he begins his research to write his future “cathedral novel” Notre-Dame de Paris.
4 episodes of approximately 15 minutes in French and English.

The year is 1828. Hugo is 26 years old. Notre-Dame was then a church in a dilapidated state. It would only be renovated by Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Bap- tiste Lassus in 1843. Notre-Dame was dying, and Hugo wanted to resurrect it as it had been in the Middle Ages. The legendary author plunges us into an investigation / experiment on the sound of Notre-Dame, allowing us to explore its acoustics and soundscapes over the centuries.

Episode 1

The Notre-Dame Construction Site

While Victor Hugo is threatened by his publisher Gosselin, who demands from him a thousand francs a week if he fails to finish his manuscript in time, he invites to his house a mysterious young girl he met in the cathedral. Notre-Dame de Paris already occupies the “big forehead” of the writer behind which is hidden “A machine for building stories and traveling in time…”.
To understand the noises of the past, listener is embarked with Victor Hugo to attend a succession of soundscapes, from the first stone in 1160 to the Christmas mass of 1198 to the birth of the cathedral in 1220.

Episode 2


1830 : the July Revolution is brewing in Paris. Hugo and his wife Adèle, who is pregnant with their fourth child, decide to flee the capital. Hugo meets the sexton again in the cathedral and engages in a “little experiment” in acoustics. After a brief historical digression, Victor Hugo returns home where he has an appointment with his most faithful supporter and longtime friend Sainte-Beuve.

Episode 3

The mass is over, the story told

While Adele reproaches him for his delays which are more and more frequent, Hugo arrives at home where he finds Sainte-Beuve and Viollet-Le-Duc in the middle of a conversation onarchitecture. Hugo then embarks on a reading of his manuscript to which a cheerful and appreciative audience responds. This passage allows you to hear in the background the work of restitution of the sound of the bells.
After these encouragements, Hugo goes to the cathedral, under the organ of Notre-Dame where he has an appointment with his publisher Gosselin. The interview ends in a dramatic way, when Gosselin tells Hugo about his wife’s affair with Sainte-Beuve. The broken writer kneels to pray as he watches his world falter. Fainting, he hears a voice calling him, probably the girl he was secretly hoping to see again…

Episode 4

Ma Dame de Paris

We can hear improvised organ music : Hugo, in a feverish dream, is at Notre Dame on Charivari Day in 1413. We hear the children’s voices swirling in the choir. In a frenzy provoked by the presence of the young woman, he achieves his cathedral novel. A journey through the centuries makes us hear successively the procession of Saint- Louis in 1239 while he welcomes to Notre-Dame the (supposed) crown of thorns of Christ, the marriage of Queen Margot and Henri de Navarre in 1572 , the Funeral Oration of the great Condé by Bossuet in 1767 until the Coronation of Napoleon in 1804.