Noémie FARGIER | FR |



Le son du fond de l’air. Capter, reproduire et façonner le silence.





This paper focuses on the sound practice of capturing, reproducing, and making silence heard and the associated listening modalities. If the almost nothing of sonic space and the micro-events that punctuate silence have acquired a musical value since Luc Ferrari's Presque Rien series of phonographic works, recording and giving voice to the acoustics of a place is part of the heritage of acoustic ecology, initiated by Raymond Murray Schaeffer and the World Soundscape Project in the 1970s. Recording the tiniest sounds, and the different tones of silence implies acute attention to the sound environment and helps to transmit this listening attitude to the listeners. Thus the series of field recordings Audible silences and room tones made since 2013 by sound artist Jez Riley French in various public spaces, which give us the opportunity to hear the acoustics of architectural spaces and their own vibrations. If the recording of a "backdrop" or "room tone" is a necessary part of any sound or audiovisual shooting for the purpose of connecting, reproducing, and/or recomposing the acoustics of a place, its quality of silence and its sound atmosphere allows, in the performing arts, not only to give an audible dimension to a place’s visual representation but also to substitute an "inhabited silence" (André Serré) for a background noise correlative to the acoustics of the performance hall. By recreating a background sound, the sound designer and stage director seek not only to control the silence and accidental noises that may occur but also the listening of the spectators. Whereas in the context of a phonographic work, making the tiniest noises of the world audible allows to refine the listeners' sonic attention and raise their awareness, during and after listening to the sound piece, the use of sound atmospheres in the performing arts tends rather to influence the perception (of space) and attention (to the performance), without the spectators being aware of it. This comparison resonates all the more when placed in a history of recording techniques. Recording silence and the slightest noises of the world was only possible when the noise produced by the recording tools was sufficiently reduced and their sensitivity sufficiently high. It was only when they were portative, that recording practices could open to the open-air. Therefore, the possibility of using a sound recording to mask the silence of a place or to reshape it is technically anterior to the possibility of recording all the nuances of background and the acoustics of a place. It is also the definition of silence, in relation to the space where it is heard, that we will seek to question. « Presque Rien » means « almost nothing ».


Noémie Fargier holds a PhD. in Theatre and Sound Studies (Sorbonne Nouvelle University, 2018). Her thesis, mentored by Marie-Madeleine Mervant-Roux (University Paris 3 – CNRS) and Peter Szendy (Brown University) deals with the sonic experience in contemporary performing arts. From 2015 to 2019, she taught in the drama department in several universities in France (Paris Nanterre University, University Paris 8, University of Strasbourg). From January to August 2020 she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities (University of Edinburgh), working on recent developments in the practice of field recording. She continued these researches in 2020-2021 at EHESS in Paris (CRAL), studying sound mapping practices. Noémie Fargier is also a writer and stage director. She is currently training as a sound creator through several workshops at Phonurgia Nova: a field recording workshop (with Félix Blume), a radio drama one (with Alexandre Plank and Antoine Richard), and started the electroacoustic composition class (Marco Marini et Jonathan Prager) at the Conservatory of Pantin.