Episode 2

Choirboys singing and jubé

By Elliot K. Canfield-Dafilou & Béatrice Caseau Chevallier

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Choirboys have have been part of the soundscape of cathedrals for centuries. At Notre-Dame, the formation of a group of boys trained in liturgical singing is well documented for the Late Middle Ages, from the 14th century onward, and for the Modern Period (16th to 18th centuries). Room acoustic simulations were used to evaluate the locations of where the choirboys sang according to archival materials. The enclosed medieval choir in Notre-Dame created a subspace with suitable acoustics for the clergy within the choir. From the nave, the voices of the choirboys would likely be unintelligible, supporting the position that the services of the clergy were performed for the benefit of themselves. The acoustic effect of the jubé was also evaluated. While placing singers on the jubé may have had visual appeal or ceremonial importance, simulations reveal that moving the singers from the ground floor of the chancel to the jubé would have actually had a negative effect on the loudness and clarity of the sound heard by the clergy.

Elliot Canfield-Dafilou, Numa Buchs, Béatrice Caseau Chevallier. The voices of children in Notre-Dame de Paris during the Late Middle Ages and the Modern Period. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 2022, (10.1016/j.culher.2022.06.005).