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How audio researchers preserved Notre Dame's treasured acoustics before the fire

How audio researchers preserved Notre Dame's treasured acoustics before the fire
The interior of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 16. (Ludovic Marin / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: I was pleased to see Michael Scott Cuthbert’s op-ed article drawing attention to the historical importance of the acoustics of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. However, it is a bit overblown to claim that the church’s sound “may just have slipped beyond our grasp, to be lost forever.”

In fact, Notre Dame’s complex acoustic response was meticulously measured in 2015 by a team led by Brian Katz at the Sorbonne University in Paris. These measurements were used to build a computer simulation of the space, which in turn was used to create one of the most sonically accurate virtual-reality simulations to date.

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It will always be true that there are limitations to what sounds we can simulate for spaces in the past whose geometry or material composition is unknown. But the wealth of data available for Notre Dame ensures that any interested listeners can still hear its wonderful acoustics today.

Braxton Boren, Washington

The writer is an assistant professor of audio technology at American University.

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