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A Good Read

I’ve just finished reading an excellent book – The SoundscapeOur Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World by R. Murray Schafer.

The Soundscape – a term coined by the author – is our sonic environment, the ever-present array of noises with which we all live. Beginning with the primordial sounds of nature, we have experienced an ever-increasing complexity of our sonic surroundings. As civilisaton develops, new noises rise up around us: from the creaking wheel, the clang of the blacksmith’s hammer, and the distant chugging of steam trains to the “sound imperialism” of airports, city streets and factories. The author contends that we now suffer from an over-abundance of acoustic information and a proportionate diminishing of our ability to hear the nuances and subtleties of sound. Our task, he maintains, is to listen, analyse, and make distinctions.

As a society we have become aware of the toxic wastes that can enter our bodies through the air we breath and the water we drink. In fact, the pollution of our sonic environment is no less real. Schafer emphasises the importance of discerning the sounds that enrich and feed us and using them to create healthier environments. To this end, he explains how to classify sounds, appreciating their beauty or ugliness, and provides exercises and “soundwalks” to help us become more discriminating and sensitive to the sounds around us.

The book is challenging but to anyone interested in our sonic environment it is well worth a read.


Saturday Around Les Halles

I was out sound hunting yesterday around Les Halles at Châtelet.

No sooner had I got there than a manifestation hove into view.

It was a manifestation to mark La Journée Mondiale des Sourds, literally – World Day of the Deaf. More particularly, it was to promote the use of sign language in everyday life. The irony didn’t escape me. Here was I trying recording an almost completely silent manifestation. As with most manifestations in Paris it was all very good natured and everyone was enjoying themselves but there was none of the usual chanting, shouting and singing. What the participants lacked in making sound they more than made up for in the use of signing which was very enthusiastic..

The manifestation was not completely devoid of sound though. These guys were having fun beating their drum.

And all this was taking place in the shadow of the magnificent Eglise Saint Eustache.


Steam Train in the Bois de Boulogne Revisited

In May this year, I put a post on to this blog with the sound of the little steam train in the Bois de Boulogne which runs from the Jardin d’Acclimatation to Porte Dauphine and is a regular summer attraction.

I live close to the Bois de Boulogne so a couple of weeks ago I went back to take some photographs of the train.

To record the train I stood in the trees close to the narrow gauge railway line that it runs on.

The train came, passed me and went on its way to Porte Dauphine and then back to the Jardin d’Acclimatation.

This is the sound I recorded – a sound very familiar to all those who visit the Bois de Boulogne.

This is a binaural recording so to get the best effect it’s best to listen through headphones.


Our Noise Footprint

Ian MacMillan, writing in his column in The Guardian a couple of days ago made me smile, but also made me think.

He was writing about a theme that much interests me, noise and its effect on the environment and in particular, about our own personal noise footprint.

Towards the end of the piece, MacMillan develops his theme to include what he calls noise miles.

He writes:

“And what about noise miles, the equivalent of food miles? Think of the deafening jet engines of the plane that brought that fruit from Africa to the supermarket. Think of the forklifts in the warehouse, crashing containers of vegetables around like tracks from live noise music concerts. Think of the shouts of the workers, the slamming of great steel doors, the revving of engines and the clattering of tumbling stacks of tins. Think of your recalcitrant trolley as you push it out of the store.

Every time I eat beans on toast, I should be made aware of the noise miles used up by the bringing of The Greatest Snack in the World to my table, and then maybe I’d chew more quietly and I wouldn’t slurp up the juice. And I wouldn’t drop my plate in the sink, enjoying the splash.

So let’s make today the day we reduce our noise footprint, even slightly.”

Food for thought indeed!

You can read the full article here.


Cour Saint-Emilion

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Paris with wonderful sunshine and the autumn leaves beginning to fall. I decided to go to Cour St. Emilion in the Bercy area of Paris in the 12th Arrondissement.

Named after the grand cru Bordeaux wine St. Emilion, the Cour, or courtyard, St. Emilion is in the area of the former wine warehouses of Bercy.

In the 19th century most wine arrived in Paris by boat and could only be sold in the city after passing through Customs. Huge quantities of wine from French vineyards were stored at Bercy in a series of long, low red brick warehouses. This ‘Entrepôt des Vins’ became the largest commercial wine distribution centre in the world.

By the late 20th century wine could be shipped directly from the French vineyards to the rest of the world without having to pass through Paris and so the need for the warehouses declined and eventually they were abandoned.

With the building of the new, automatic, Metro Line 14, Cour St. Emilion got its own Metro station and new life was breathed into the area. Today, the former wine warehouses have been transformed into shops and restaurants.

This photo was downloaded from here

Here is a recording I made on the automatic Metro line 14 on the way from Cour St.Emilion to the Gare de Lyon


More from la Mouffe’

I love watching and listening to street musicians. Invariably, they look to be happy and enjoying their work.

I came across this gentleman recently in the rue Mouffetard.

Not only was he making the little organ sing but he was also singing himself.

You can listen to him here …


A Little Piece of Russia in Paris

I went to a wedding yesterday. I wasn’t invited and I didn’t know the people getting married but I went anyway. Actually, I didn’t set out to go to the wedding, I just sort of stumbled across it.

I was sound hunting as I so often do on a Saturday and I went back to the rue Mouffetard in the Véme Arrondissement where I went to last week (see my blog piece “rue Mouffetard”). At the bottom of the street, I stopped to have a look at the market which was as busy and colourful as ever.

Next to the market is the fifteenth-century church of Saint-Médard.

There has been a church on this site since Merovingian times. Along with the churches of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre and Saint-Marcel, this church, dedicated to Saint-Médard, was built close to the rue Mouffetard, the major Roman road leading south to Lyon and Italy. The building of the present church was begun in the mid fifteenth-century and continued until its completion in 1655. In 1784, Louis-François Petit-Radel was commissioned to rejuvenate the church’s chancel which he did in Classical style whilst at the same time replacing the nave’s sixteenth-century windows with contemporary stained glass.

In the second half of the sixteenth-century, the church was associated with the Huguenots. Public preaching by the Huguenots, as the Calvinists were called from around 1560, was banned but it still went on largely in secret on the Left Bank and particularly around the rue Mouffetard and Saint-Médard. As so often in French history, things turned bloody. In late 1561 atrocities by both Protestants and Catholics occurred in the parish of Saint-Médard. This, together with the “massacre of Wassy”, when Catholics attacked a Protestant assembly at Wassy in Champagne and dozens were killed, proved to be the trigger for a religious war which culminated in the infamous Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572.

I’ve digressed, so back to the beginning and the wedding.

I went into the Eglise Saint-Médard and much to my surprise the wedding ceremony was taking place so I sat down and watched and listened. Having not been invited I took a place towards the back of the church and tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible. From a discarded Order of Service I discovered that this was the wedding of Anastasia and Mickael, the bride being Russian and the groom French, and it was being conducted in both the Russian and French languages.

I found it all fascinating and I simply couldn’t resist recording at least some of it.

Here is the Benediction sung by Father Yagello from the Russian Orthodox Church together with a Russian choir. Père Yagello begins to chant, the congregation stand and a little French boy is desperate to join in!

The organ of Saint-Médard dates from 1645 although it has subsequently been rebuilt twice. Parts of the organ casing though are thought to be original. The first rebuild of the organ occurred in 1767 when the organ builder François-Henri Clicquot completely rebuilt the old instrument.  Then in 1778, Adrien L’Espine, Clicquot’s brother-in-law, carried out more major renovations, particularly to the wind system.  The instrument was completely rebuilt again in 1880 by the organ builders Edouard and Eugène Stolz.

I have digressed again!

So, another Saturday afternoon in the rue Mouffetard and in the Eglise Saint-Médard Anastasia and Mickael, now safely married, leave the church in style to be greeted outside by their families and friends. I wish them well and I shall remember this little piece of Russia in Paris for some time to come.

Both the Benediction and the organ are binaural recordings. To get the best effect it’s best to listen using headphones.

And, finally:

As you listen to the organ of the Eglise Saint-Médard, you might out of curiosity if nothing else want to read these – The Lord’s Prayer in both French and Russian.


A Late Summer Evening in Paris … And Dreaming

Regular readers of this blog will know that I specialise in street recordings, particularly street recordings of Paris. Regular readers may also like to know that I do, from time to time, turn my hand to other forms of recording as well. In fact, given the right opportunity, I will record practically anything. I  mention this because today has been a gorgeous late summer’s day here in Paris and late this evening, sitting on a terrace sipping a glass of white, a recording I made some time ago came to mind.

I had a short holiday in one of my favourite places, the Amalfi coast in Italy. A flight to Naples, a tussle with the car hire at the airport, a hair-raising drive along the coast road to Amalfi and then … what a reward!

The Amalfi Coast with its rugged terrain and sheer beauty is in the Campania region of Italy south of Naples. The main town on the Amalfi coast is Salerno but other places come to mind including Amalfi itself, Positano and, of course, Ravello which is very special to me. Everyone needs their own little piece of heaven on earth and Ravello is mine.

So, to get back to the point. Sitting on the terrace in Paris on this late summer evening with my glass of white and dreaming of my little piece of heaven on earth, I was drawn to the sounds that I recorded on the Amalfi coast and this one in particular, a recording I made early one evening on the beach close to Amalfi – the sound of a calm sea with the waves gently rolling over the pebbles on the seashore.

This recording goes very well with a late summer evening in Paris, or anywhere else for that matter,  together with a glass of white – Enjoy!