The Sounds exhibition invites you to test your listening ability, identify the sounds which surround you, understand their physical nature, experiment with new technology and play with musical sounds.

The scenography, left deliberately bare, puts the focus on listening. The visitor enters via a silent passage into the "anechoic chamber" which demonstrates the effects of acoustic absorption.

At the centre of the exhibition are the two versions of our sound communication: the voice and the ear. And all around: sound, both the physical phenomenon and the Sound planet, a few suggestions of sounds, some stories to listen to, and much more.

1. Acoustic environment

Things to discover:

  • Soundscape: a multimedia show using soundscapes from 4 Parisian sites and 4 sites in Haut-Jura
  • Collection of sounds: to listen to in alcoves, sounds, sometimes unusual or inaudible, changed by technology or developed by sound design.

    2. The physics of sound

    Sound travels through air, water or solids in the form of waves. Its travelling speed increases with the density of the environment. Audio frequency is the number of wave cycles per second. The higher this number, the higher this sound appears. Pure or complex, harmonic or not, each sound has its own tonal identity. Its intensity is measured on a scale in relation to our senses.

    Things to discover:

      • Sound propagation: a display illustrating the propagation of sound.
      • Wavelength: an oscillograph measuring the wave length of 3 pure sounds.
      • Silence born from a vacuum: experiment showing that sound does not travel in the absence of matter.
      • Speed of sound: a display demonstrates the time required for a sound to cross a certain distance.
      • Resonance: piano strings can be excited by a voice.
      • Looking at sound: software from IRCAM analyses and visualises all the frequencies that make up a sound.
      • Singing decibels: the intensity of a sound varies according to a logarithmic scale.


      Presentation of the behaviour of sound waves in the environment, applied acoustics and noise action plans: faced with an obstacle, sound waves are either reflected or absorbed. An acoustician studies these phenomena and also works to reduce sound levels.

      Things to discover:

      •  Where am I?: the ear can work out the volume and shape of a space.
      • Silence born from noise: test active "anti-noise" systems, phase-opposition signals given off by headphones.
      • Protecting yourself from noise: find appropriate solutions to sound-proof different apartments (multimedia).
      • Sound predictions: try to reduce the noise of a motorway while respecting the countryside and financial imperatives (multimedia).

      3. Long-distance communication 

      Living beings use sounds to share information over distance.

      Things to discover:

      • Sound parabola: have a conversation in whispers from 17 m away
      • 10000 ways to communicate: discover the different communication methods used by animals and humans, and the techniques of recording, transporting, diffusing and saving sounds (audiovisual).

      4. Speaking, hearing and musical sound

      Depending on our own language, we can distinguish only a few of the diverse sounds of the world's languages. All languages use a system of basic sounds, known as phonemes.

      Things to discover:

        • Sounds from languages: listen to the sounds chosen from 21 languages and do a listening exercise on 3 tonal languages
        • Vowel chart: try to discern 26 vowels.

        Visualised and modelled, discover the plasticity of the human vocal tract. Speaking and singing gives it a variety of expressions.

        Things to discover:


        • Exploration of the voice (audiovisuals): visualise the behaviour of vocal cords when the voice is used to sing or speak. Vocal techniques are explained.
        • Produce speech (multimedia): change the settings of certain physical attributes (shape of lips, position of tongue, lowering of jaw) to produce vowels.
          • The vocal piano

          This giant piano, placed on the ground, can be played using your feet. When you press on the keys, instead of piano notes, you hear notes sang by professional singers: from a bass to a soprano. A mural connected to the piano is an opportunity to discover the vocal range of the classical singers.