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A cultural & tourism innovation stemming from social sciences

Birth of the project

Born in 2015 during an educational workshop led by the Master ITER (Innovation and Territory) and the LabEx ITEM (Innovation and Mountain Territories), at the Institute of Alpine Geography in Grenoble, France, the Losonnante project was initiated by Sébastien Depertat, joined in 2017 by Thomas Bonnenfant.
Losonnante is an original sound installation in that it offers a bone conduction listening experience. The sound is therefore not projected into space through the air, it travels along the elbows, arms, hands to the ears. This suited the experimentation carried out on the touristic but sensitive and protected site of Lac de Paladru (Isère, France): renewing the discovery of the site without intervening too suddenly by sharing the inhabitants’ stories and legends in the hollow of the ear.

The City of Grenoble has also expressed its support for an installation on the Bastille belvedere and the CNRS has selected Losonnante to be presented at the 2017 Innovative humanities and social sciences exhibition in Marseilles.

In this dynamic, the project is joined by Thomas Bonnenfant, author of the Solidienne listening stations (IRCAM, LAUM and LAM, 2009) to develop a new prototype of the sound installation. The skills of geographer and musician on the one hand and of architect-visual artist on the other come together to flesh out the project. From stories of territories to soundscapes to the behavior of sound vibrations in matter, the Losonnante is then built as a multi-disciplinary project, at the meeting between arts (plastic and sound) and sciences (physics, materials, human sciences and social).

Project maturation

Following the 2017 Innovative humanities and social sciences exhibition in Marseilles, Losonnante approaches SATT Linksium (Technology Transfer Acceleration Companies) and decides to apply for the Out Of Labs Challenge. This program is intended to help projects from research laboratories to transfer them to the socio-economic world, mainly in the form of business creation such as a start up.

From January 2019, accompanied by the SATT Linksium, researchers join the Pacte and AAU-Cresson laboratories as study engineers: the objectives are then to put to work the multiple dimensions provided by the Losonnante device (positions of listening, modes of attention, relationship to the body and the environment, relationship between haptics and acoustics), to lead to the production of a new listening prototype (work on form, materials, scenography), and to identify concrete situations of application.

This program has specifically made it possible to put the object in a situation in various formats: digital arts festival, workshop for discovering sounds with children, long-term availability for exhibition spaces, etc.

The CRESSON laboratory

The CRESSON (Center for Research on Sound Space and the Urban Environment) is a research team in architecture and urban planning, created in 1979, at Grenoble National School of Architecture. Originally focused on sound space, CRESSON has based its research culture on a sensitive approach to inhabited spaces. This research is based on original multidisciplinary methods, at the crossroads of architecture, human and social sciences and engineering sciences. Through its work, the CRESSON implements experiments that question the processes of architectural and urban design to its full spectrum (device, architecture, urban space, landscape, territory).
From the 90s, while continuing work on the sound dimension, its investigations broadened to the multiple dimensions of the in situ perception of the urban experience. Light, sound, thermal, olfactory, tactile and kinesthetic phenomena are thus approached, and their relationship to ordinary and professional practices, thus laying the foundations for research on architectural and urban atmospheres. In the continuity of these concerns, the work of CRESSON today questions the social, ecological, aesthetic, digital and political issues of atmospheres.
CRESSON is one of the teams of the Ambiances, Architectures, Urban issues (AAU) laboratory, which is a Joint Research Unit of the CNRS associating the National Schools of Architecture of Grenoble and Nantes and the École Centrale de Nantes. Since its creation, the AAU laboratory has developed in a strongly interdisciplinary way, through its composition (architects, sociologists, computer scientists, anthropologists, urban planners, geographers, physicists, historians, philosophers), through the issues and challenges to which it responds (architecture, environment, city), and through the tools it designs and implements (in situ survey methodologies, modeling and simulation of environmental phenomena, virtual reality, etc.).

CRESSON in the context of the Losonnante project

The Losonnante project is doubly in line with the scientific orientations of CRESSON, namely, exploring the sound dimension of inhabited space and public spaces and grasping urban daily life through the practices and stories of inhabitants. These orientations have three aims: scientific, artistic and operational. The Losonnante project offers, through its structure-based listening device, possibilities for original questioning and dissemination of these issues. The sharing of representations, their presence in the public space and the possibility of interacting with them are at the heart of many contemporary urban issues, whether for a better understanding and consideration of the physical, social and sensitive environment that for a concerted design of the architectural, urban and landscape transformations to come. Listening to simply get along better.

The Pacte laboratory

The members of PACTE, Laboratory of Social Sciences are invested in the construction of common languages and transversal knowledge on the transformations of our societies in their political, territorial, sociological and ecological dimensions. Resulting from laboratories specialized mainly in regional planning, geography and urban planning on the one hand, political science and sociology on the other hand, the laboratory also brings together a few economists, historians, lawyers and specialists in information and communication. It places interdisciplinarity at the heart of its practices, through the sharing and confrontation of methods, epistemologies, and common grounds.

The organization of the unit into 5 teams (Environments, Governance, Social Justice, Regulations, and Cities and Territories) plays on the scales of relations between actors (from large international organizations to subordinates), but also on deployments urban and rural territories, taking into account the environmental issues that these processes raise.

Collective life is built at PACTE around the production of fundamental research of excellence, deployed through international thematic and disciplinary networks. The laboratory is also recognized as a dynamic player in research-action collaborations, in particular with public, associative and private institutions, in strong links with the territories in which it operates. It also intends to play a central role in the dynamics of innovation and experimentation in the social sciences, exploring both new forms of knowledge co-production and research-creation and new formats for disseminating research results in the city.

PACTE in the context of the Losonnante project

The PACTE laboratory has contributed to the emergence of the Losonnante project by investing its teacher-researchers in research training (Master ITER) and support for innovation (LabEx ITEM). Through its expertise in the field of geography, development and urban planning, PACTE has a tradition of cooperation with the territories in order to open up areas for experimentation and learning. The laboratory’s Environments team welcomed Sébastien Depertat as a researcher associated with PACTE at the end of his master’s degree. This allows him to take part in the scientific activity of the laboratory, to benefit from his internal experience in terms of setting up projects and promoting them, and finally, to discover new networks conducive to the development of the Losonnante. La Losonnante is part of a renewed interest within the laboratory for sensitive mediations (film, dance, theatre) which allow the human and social sciences to renew their commitment to societal issues (environmental issues, migration, renewal urban, etc). Finally, the PACTE laboratory has a successful history of collaborations with the Cresson laboratory.

Artistic residencies

From the intention brought with the Losonnante device, three main axes of work and reflection are posed, on which cursors can evolve: the listening position, the listening environment and the sound content.

Losonnante now offers the possibility of working in greater depth on these aspects according to installation requests. Tailor-made systems can then emerge, developed according to the sites and the context. In the form of a residency, it would be a question of working with artists, composers, choreographers, scenographers, scientists, bringing out new approaches and new experiences of listening by bone conduction.
  • The listening position
It conditions the comfort of the listener, the time he will be able to devote to listening, the attention he will pay to it and the way he will perceive the sounds (quality, fineness of listening, difficulty to position yourself). Today in standing and individual listening, devices could work on seated or lying listening positions, individually, on small groups of people or larger collectives.
  • The listening environment

It is a question of working more specifically on the scenography which accompanies Losonnante and the choice to question the sound environment in which one inserts oneself. Listening in a noisy environment or in a very quiet environment substantially changes the perception and listening experience with this device.
It is also a question of guiding the visitor towards Losonnante and indicating to him, more or less explicitly, how to listen. Depending on the configuration, and depending on the person, adopting this listening position can be intimidating or on the contrary comforting, we may want to be alone or rather need someone close to us who guides us in the listening experience. .
The scenography also consists in integrating elements external to the device into the listening experience: plays of light, visuals, inserting oneself into a choreography that plays with the immobility of the listener, etc.

  •  The sound content
One of the big projects concerning Losonnante is to offer sound content that is specifically composed for the device. The objective is to work with composers who can experience the rendering of their work with this type of listening. Depending on the composer’s choices, there may be a game between hearing and haptic perception (touch) which is more or less felt.


BASCHET François (2007), Mémoire Sonore, L’Harmattan – Paris
GONON Anne, Tout ouïe. La création musicale et sonore dans l’espace public, L’entretemps, 2016.
FLORENS Ernst, FRIEDRICH Chladni (2018), Traité d’acoustique, Hachette Livre BNF – Paris GUIU Claire (dir.), « Géographies et musiques. Quelles perspectives ? » , revue Géographie et cultures n°59, automne 2016, L’Harmattan, Paris.
MURRAY SCHAFER Raymond, Le paysage sonore. Le monde comme musique, Wildproject, Marseille, 2010.
RAIBAUD Yves (dir.), Comment la musique vient aux territoires, Maison des sciences de l’homme d’Aquitaine, 2009.
SINCLAIR Peter, JOY Jérôme, Locus Sonus. 10 ans d’expérimentation en art sonore, Le mot et le reste, 2015.
BOSS Sandra (2018), Tuning the Ear – Exploring Conditions and Conceptions of Hearing, Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University
DAMIAN Jeremy (2014), Intériorités/Sensations/Consciences : sociologie des expérimentations somatiques du Contact Improvisation et du Body-Mind Centering, Université de Grenoble.
Articles et reviews
BERGER Nathalie, CALLEC Arnaud, dossier « Prêtez l’oreille… La nature c’est aussi du son », revue Espaces naturels, n°47 juillet 2014.
GWIAZDZINSKI Luc, PIGNOT Lisa, dossier « Les géo-artistes : nouvelles dynamiques pour la fabrique urbaine » , L’observatoire, la revue des politiques culturelles, n°48 Été 2016.
ROMIEU Patrick, « Désenchanter le sonore : quelques considérations sur les méandres inférieurs de l’écoute » , in GUIU Claire, FABUREL Guillaume, MERVANT-ROUX Marie-Madeleine, TORGUE Henry et WOLOSZYN Philippe (dirs.) Soundscapes. Espaces, expériences et politiques du sonore, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2015.
Online articles
« L’accéléromètre pour écouter les vibrations du monde » :
« Good vibrations (1/3) : Bill Fontana, l’artiste qui sculpte le bruit du monde » :
« Dossier arts & sons – Les esthétiques de l’écoute », sur le site Arts Hebdo Médias :