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April 19, 2015


Le Cylindre Sonore

by soundlandscapes

YOU PROBABLY WON’T find any reference to it in the guidebooks, the glossy magazine articles or the internet sites that bombard us with the ‘10 best things to see in Paris’ or the ‘Guides to Secret Paris’ – and yet le Cylindre Sonore is quite exceptional.

Le Cylindre Sonore, Bamboo Garden, Parc de la Villette

It stands in the sunken landscape of Alexandre Chemetoff’s Jardin des Bambous, a Bamboo garden in the Parc de la Villette on the north-eastern edge of Paris and it is in the words of its creator, the Austrian architect and composer Bernhard Leitner:

A cylindrical space that allows concentrated listening to the place, a contemplative rediscovery of oneself in transcendence of the place”.

Le Cylindre Sonore, Bamboo Garden, Parc de la Villette

Le Cylindre Sonore stands some six metres below the level of the park and it can be approached by a staircase lined with tiny water cascades leading down from the Parc de la Villette to the Jardin des Bambous or it can be approached from the garden itself. Either way, this sound space is designed so that one has to walk through it.

Le Cylindre Sonore, Bamboo Garden, Parc de la Villette

The staircase from the Parc de la Villette

Le Cylindre Sonore is sound architecture displayed as public art but unlike Bernard Tschumi’s bright red follies that adorn the rest of the Parc de la Villette, it’s the sound of it rather than the sight of it that attracts attention.

Le Cylindre Sonore, Bamboo Garden, Parc de la Villette

The sounds inside le Cylindre Sonore:

Le Cylindre Sonore, Bamboo Garden, Parc de la Villette

Five metres high and ten metres across, le Cylindre Sonore is in fact two cylinders with a space in between. Behind the eight perforated concrete panels and between the two cylinders are twenty-four loudspeakers arranged vertically, three to each panel, forming eight columns of sound. The circular space between the two cylinders provides access for the maintenance of the loudspeakers and entry to the underground control room. The inner cylinder acts as a resonance chamber with the curved surface shaping the sound.

Standing in le Cylindre Sonore the sounds from the loudspeakers, the sound of water flowing from the columns to a pool beneath the floor, the sounds from the water cascades alongside the staircase and the circular framed sky above create a meditative space sequestered from the city.

Le Cylindre Sonore, Bamboo Garden, Parc de la Villette

I spend much of my life recording the sounds of Paris. My practice mainly involves the relationship between sound and place and how sound can define, or help to define, a place. Very rarely though do I come upon a public space like le Cylindre Sonore where the sounds are the place.

Bamboo Garden, Parc de la Villette

Inside the Jardin des Bambous

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Apr 19 2015

    I must make a point of visiting this place sometime. Thanks for posting about it 🙂

    • Apr 19 2015

      Thanks, Alastair. This sonic cylinder is quite extraordinary as indeed is the bamboo garden it stands in. Both are well worth a visit.

  2. hmunro
    Apr 19 2015

    The sounds you captured are unlike any I’ve heard — strange an eerie. But their very uniqueness makes me want to visit this place and experience it for myself. Thanks for once again expanding my horizons!

    Did you by chance get to hear the bamboo swaying in the wind? When I was visiting my parents in Florida last month we went to the Morikami Japanese Garden, which has a large bamboo grove. The sound the trunks made when they knocked into each other was magical.

    • Apr 21 2015

      Thanks, Heather.

      I did record sounds in the Bamboo Garden but I suspect they were not as spectacular as the sounds you found in Florida. It’s still a fascinating place though.

  3. Apr 19 2015

    Mesmerizing! Wonder if you may have compiled a number of your works and have made them available on CD. If not you might think of doing so. I’de be the first in line to purchase such a compilation. Your work deserves a wider audience. Very creative stuff. thanks you for sharing your work with us.

  4. Apr 20 2015

    How on earth do you find these places, Des? Another amazing location to add to my ever-expanding list for my next trip over. Grazie mille.

    • Apr 21 2015

      Thank you Susanna.

      This place is a bit special isn’t it? It’s not well advertised so I had to search it out but the search was worthwhile. I’m sure there are many other hidden treasures in Paris still waiting to be discovered!

  5. Sep 1 2015

    Hi! Thanks for this post. I found it while searching for Le Cylinder Sonore. I’m heading into Paris in October to document this site, along with some others, along the way. I wondered if you might be able to direct me to anymore sound installations in Paris. Be nice to catch some more if possible. By the way, I’m an urban sound researcher from Melbourne: Really nice site you have. Cheers!

  6. Oct 18 2015

    Hello! I came across your post while I was looking for information about the cylindre sonore. It really seems worthwhile, definitely to be discovered during one of my future trips to Paris.

    • Oct 18 2015

      Thank you for stopping by Lia. Yes, it’s certainly worth a visit, especially in the spring and early summer when the bamboo garden it stands in is looking at its best.


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