Calculating sound

Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation. 

 

Tutors: Jérôme Poret/ musician, Fabrice Guédy/ conductor - musician, Sébastien Gaxie/ composer, musician, Deborah Walker/ musician

Project manager: Stéphane Coulaud

 

Objectives:
“Calculating Sound” helps the pupils to master familiar or new mathematical operations so they can calculate all kinds of volumes, surfaces, trajectories, etc. in the school environment. They put together an astonishing collection of data which will later be used to compose sound tracks and music.
Through the abstract nature of both disciplines, mathematics has close links with music, which various authors such as Pythagoras have theorised: the numerology of musical intervals, notation, the rules of harmony or counterpoint, are just some of these natural links. The workshop transforms the volume and area of a classroom into sound, using calculations that the pupils learn to master in the course of the project.

Workshops:
The workshop is designed around the figure of Pythagoras and more particularly the relationships between music and mathematics. To broaden the scope of the project, at the beginning of each session, the pupils listen to a work by a composer (e.g. “Babbitt” by Yanis Xenakis) inspired by algebraic, mathematical and cybernetic principles.

Grain of sound
The first session was devoted to becoming aware of the physical materiality of sound. Ordinary materials were taken at random and the sounds they produced were recorded then interpreted and used as the raw material of a musical composition based on the principles of the Pythagorean scale.

Squared sound
In the core phase of the project, the pupils selected “sonorous” objects for their shape: parallelepipeds – rectangles or squares – spheres, tetrahedrons and pyramids. They then calculated sounds from these shapes. The sounds were played and synthesised to create an original musical composition - even more original in that no musical instrument was used, since the objects were chosen for their geometrical properties alone. In the last phase, the sound compositions were edited and post synchronised ready to be played to an audience.

Outcome:
The classes' compositions (“Music for Counting”, “Pythagorean Suite”, etc.) were edited for diffusion in each school. The F93 broadcasting system was used to play these pieces in June.

 

Outings (selection):
- EUROPUNK EXHIBITION, CITÉ DE LA MUSIQUE, PARIS
- “CÉLESTE, MA PLANÈTE” BY SÉBASTIEN GAXIE, NATIONAL ORCHESTRA OF THE ÎLE-DE-FRANCE, PARIS
- EXHIBITION “THE COLOURS OF THE VOICE”, CITÉ DE LA MUSIQUE

Participating schools:
- Class (6th), Collège Édouard-Herriot, Livry-Gargan
- Class (5th SEGPA), Collège Rosa-Luxembourg, Aubervilliers
- Class (5th) Collège Cotton, Le Blanc-Mesnil
- Class (4th) Collège Sémard, Drancy
- Class (4th) Collège Jaurès, Villepinte