Des mots et des murs is a perennial sound trail, which you can discover all year round with free access at the reception of the GwinZegal Art Centre.

In 2017, the town of Guingamp asked Julien Simon, a playwright, to write a spoken word route that would be the result of research in the prison archives.

Julien worked for several months and when about fifty texts were gathered, I was asked to record the voices of professionals or simple Guingampais, who took possession of these historical words. It also consisted in making a homogeneous assembly and composing a custom music.

The first phase of recording the spoken and sung voices lasted nine months. Among these voices are Annie Ebrel, Iffic Troadec and Yann-Fañch Kemener. As you may know, Yann-Fañch passed away not long ago and our meeting took place a few days before he learned of his illness. I was overwhelmed by his professionalism and generosity. It is one of his last recordings and it is not without emotion that we worked on it. I would like to pay tribute to him here. 

Then came the time for choices, for the dramaturgical assembly of these words. Before moving on to the composition of the music and the final sounding in binaural.

The choice of a headphone broadcast was made from the beginning of the project. That is to say, the listener will take a walkman at the reception desk and go for a walk in the prison, listening to one of the 4 tracks of 20 minutes. This means, on the one hand, that the listener will be alone, isolated from the world by the headphone system, but connected to space by words and music. These personal music player and headset devices were designed by Mael Bellec (electronics and assembly), Christophe Baratay (computer programming of the application)  and Ralph Wendel (visual).

Binaural allows a virtual placement of sounds around the listener with headphones. This gives a feeling of width, while offering great freedom when assembling, because you don’t just have a stereo field that almost amounts to having a sound on the left, a sound in the center and a sound on the right. In binaural, it is almost as if the 360° surrounding the listener are exploitable and it is even possible, in some situations, to play on the vertical positioning of sounds.

The choice of binaural also had an interest to connect the listener to the place, because it helped me to record sound impulses of some important places of the prison (a cell, the courtyard, the chapel) and to use these audio impulses to produce reverbs that recreate a realistic sound space, without doing any audio illustration (I prefer to leave this to specialists from the cinema or radio). I just wanted to simulate the spaces, to put the voices in them and sometimes to do a work of sound creation in harmony, in support or even in counterpoint! The artistic direction was always given by Julien Simon looking that everything made sense. 

All the sound production was done with Logelloop, using the instruments at my disposal that were best adapted to the situation. So we find a bandoneon, homemade tubular bells, a harmonium, a glass, a few pieces of wood, bottles exploded on the ground, etc. 

Each of the four audio walk tracks has a particular theme and audio color. Julien talks about it much better than I do, which is why I advise you to listen to the radio show Morgan Large did with him on Radio Kreizh Breizh. Be careful, the excerpts in the show are in stereo and not binaural, so you can listen to this recording on speakers, but you will not have the 3D effect feeling I mentioned earlier.

Below are some sound samples in binaural, for an ideal listening, I advise you to listen to them with headphones.

The inauguration of the Guingamp prison takes place this weekend, where you can experience this sound course with headphones. Otherwise, don’t panic, listening will be possible for several years.


Listen to Tomaz Laquaine‘s show inviting Fañch Peru to talk about the text Mari Lousken, which is also part of this sound journey :

Also to be read, the article from the Cri de l’ormeau :  voyage au bout de la nuit

And Julien’s hagiography in the Telegrame newspaper :  Prison_de_Guingamp_Julien_Simon_Article_Le_Telegramme