Fondation Cartier

In the big city jungle

Why travel to Costa Rica, the Amazon or the Serengeti? At Fondation Cartier in Paris you’re in the midst of it all: “The Great Animal Orchestra” commences its performance. Mademoiselle Lili is listening carefully.

Chirp, chirp, chirp go the insects. The basic noises are accompanied by birds, frogs and howler monkeys. Rooooooar, rooooooooooar – then you hear the jaguar. His roar really gets under your skin. I’m lying on a lounge cushion on the bottom floor of Fondation Cartier – and I’m in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. The visualised sound frequencies run as curves over the darkened walls and are reflected in the water basin in front of them. It takes your ears on a trip – in 12 minutes from Central America to Africa and back to North America to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Welcome to the “Great Animal Orchestra”. An absolutely hypnotic experience for every stressed city dweller who longs to escape the noise of civilisation. The conductor of the sonorous spectacle is music legend and bioacoustician Bernie Krause.

The American (77) is an electronic music pioneer. In 1967, he introduced the Moog synthesiser to pop music. He worked with the Doors and contributed to soundtracks of cult films such as “Apocalypse Now” and “Rosemary’s Baby”. Then he discovered the sound of nature and got his doctorate in Bioacoustics. With his “Wild Sanctuary” – 5000 hours of recordings of 15,000 different species – he compiled what is probably the world’s biggest sound archive of natural voices: an acoustically preserved natural heritage of “soundscapes”, sound landscapes half of which, as he explains, can already no longer be heard today because the habitat in which the recordings were made was destroyed or greatly changed. In his soundscapes you can hear the dramatic environmental destruction, where the eye can’t recognise it.   

For 32 years, Fondation Cartier in Paris has ranked among the city’s most interesting museums and has been talked about for its highly unusual exhibitions. Art, cinema, architecture, design, fashion, theatre, music, science – interdisciplinarity is the order of the day. When jewellery and watch manufacturer Cartier opened his Fondation Cartier in 1984, the marriage of luxury brands with art was a new concept, and the world was different. Socialist President François Mitterand thought out loud about the nationalisation of Cartier. Luxury was regarded as politically incorrect. Today, the industry is one of the top exports, and almost every French luxury company has its art foundation. Even if Paris’s otherwise sleepy 14th arrondissement isn’t really on the tourist route, the glass Jean-Nouvel building on Boulevard Raspail is always worth a side trip.

“The Great Animal Orchestra” can be visited up to 8 January 2017 in Fondation Cartier, 261 Boulevard Raspail, 75014 Paris