International Year of Sound 2020—Grand Opening Ceremony January 31, 2020

By Marion Burgess

After many years of preparation, the International Year of Sound (IYS) 2020 was formally launched during a spectacular opening ceremony in the Grand Amphithéâtre of La Sorbonne on January 31, 2020. This monumental amphitheater was inaugurated in 1889 and was registered as a historic monument in 1975. It was indeed a fitting location for the opening of the IYS 2020, and we are grateful to Prof. Jean-Dominique Polack (co-organizer) who was instrumental in the arrangements for the use of this venue.

Fig. 1. Grand Amphithéâtre of Sorbonne University

The early attendees could experience the two installations in the foyer of multizone sound field reproduction. They were created by researchers from the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR—University of Southampton, UK), and the installation was arranged by the UK Acoustics Network (UKAN).

Fig. 2. One of the two installations, with students from the University of Southampton who were responsible for their development

The moderator for the opening ceremony was Prof. Michael Taroudakis, past president of the ICA and co-organizer of the IYS 2020. He commenced his welcome in French, as a respect to the location in Paris, then repeated in English.

On behalf of the president of Sorbonne University, Prof. Nathalie Drach-Temam, vice president research of Sorbonne University, welcomed all to the Grand Amphithéâtre and congratulated the ICA on initiating the IYS and bringing it to fruition in 2020.

Then followed Prof. Mark Hamilton, current president of the ICA, who thanked the efforts of his predecessors and provided an overview of the mission and activities of the ICA.

Fig. 3. Prof. Michael Taroudakis, IYS 2020 co-organizer and ICA past president
Fig. 4. Prof. Nathalie Drach-Temam, Sorbonne University
Fig. 5. Prof. Mark Hamilton, ICA president

Christian Hugonnet, president of La Semaine du Son (LSdS), explained the five primary topics for weeks of sound worldwide. He also summarized the achievements of LSdS not only in France but also around the world, the endorsement of UNESCO, and the agreement between LSdS and the ICA in regard to the IYS 2020.

Prof. Vincent Gibiat, president, Société Française d’Acoustique (SFA), a member society of the ICA, advised that the SFA was enthusiastic about the IYS 2020 and was honored that the opening was being held in Paris.

Prof. Michel Spiro, president, International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), followed and emphasized the support of the union for the initiative of the ICA.

Fig. 6. Christian Hugonnet, president of LSdS
Fig. 7. Prof. Vincent Gibiat, president of SFA
Fig. 8. Prof. Michel Spiro, president, IUPAP

Dr. Shelly Chadha from the World Health Organization spoke in her video presentation on the opportunities that the IYS 2020 would offer to highlight the importance of preserving hearing.

A musical interlude, sponsored by SFA, followed these welcomes. Maxime Perrin and Jean Brice Godet produced an excellent fusion of their two instruments: piano accordion and bass clarinet. The applause indicated the appreciation of the audience.

Fig. 9. Maxime Perrin and Jean Brice Godet

Following this interlude, Marion Burgess (IYS 2020 co-organizer) spoke on the importance of sound in our world. This presentation highlighted how sound in some form influences all parts of our life. She explained that all sound starts from vibration and that our human hearing range is just a small part of the spectrum. Within our hearing range, there is the need to ensure that sound does not become annoying or excess noise. Below this range is infrasound and above is ultrasound, which is a very powerful tool with wide-ranging applications. Burgess emphasized that the study of sound is a truly multidisciplinary topic.

Jean-Dominique Polack (IYS 2020 co-organizer) then provided a summary of the activities planned for the IYS 2020. He explained that the centrally organized activities included the opening, a film, and an international student competition. All the ICA member organizations had been mobilized to host special outreach activities during 2020. The IYS 2020 website ( provides a comprehensive list of planned events during the year; as of January, already there were more than 80 separate events listed, with more being added every day. As well as events, the IYS 2020 has led to the compilation in the one location of a large number of freely available resources. These resources will continue to be available after the closing of the year as one of the many outcomes of the IYS.

Fig. 10. Marion Burgess, IYS co-organizer
Fig. 11. Prof. Jean-Dominique Polack, IYS co-organizer

After these presentations, the first showing of the film Sounds of Our Life followed. This 9-minute film, directed by Antonio Fischetti and sponsored by I-INCE, aims to highlight the importance of sound in all aspects of our life. The film, plus a shortened 2-minute version, will be made freely available from the IYS 2020 and I-INCE websites as another lasting outcome for the year.

The final segment of the opening was a concert by Révolutions Vocales, sponsored by Acoustics First Corporation. In the form of a burlesque, Révolutions Vocales presented multiple compositions for the voice written since the 1960s. Three characters embarked upon vocal and theatrical contests that slipped into the interpretation of works reflecting an unprecedented range of vocal emotions and productions. These shed light on the scores and effectively analyzed the various styles. For many present, this performance was an unexpected but a wonderful way to show the power of the human voice and of communication. The round of applause demonstrated the appreciation of the audience.

Fig. 12. Révolutions Vocales Compagnie VocAliques

The ceremony was attended among others by many members of the IYS 2020 steering committee, representatives of the ICA member societies and international affiliates, members of Sorbonne University, and many French acousticians. It was also transmitted by video livestream, offered by Sorbonne University.

In conclusion, Michael Taroudakis thanked those involved with the opening ceremony as well as the various organizations that had provided support for this event. He also thanked those who had sponsored parts of the ceremony and the sponsors for the IYS 2020, without whose support the year would not be occurring. He advised that the event had been livestreamed and that soon an edited version would be available from the website. He sincerely thanked the international audience who had gathered from around the world in the Grand Amphithéâtre for this opening of the IYS 2020 and invited all to celebrate the achievement with a cocktail in the nearby foyer.

Fig. 13. From left: Sergio Luzzi, organizer of the student competition; Christian Hugonnet, president LSdS; Michael Vorlander, past past past president ICA; Marion Burgess, past past president ICA; Michael Taroudakis, past president ICA; Mark Hamilton, president ICA; Jean-Dominique Polack, board member ICA

For more information on the opening ceremony, you may refer to the IYS Documents web page. For more information on events in your area, see “Events” tab at The submission form for organizations hosting outreach events in accordance with the intent of the IYS is available from this website.