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January 28, 2011


An Altercation in Montmartre

by soundlandscapes

IT ALL STARTED QUITE innocently.  A Sunday afternoon in Montmartre, a light lunch in the extraordinary Bistro La Petaudiére, a quick look into the Espace Salvador Dali and then a walk across the Place du Tertre in the shadow of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur.

The artists were working at their easels in the centre of the Place du Tertre and the tourists – yes, such is the magnetism of Montmartre, that there are tourists even in January – were filling the thoroughfares on all four sides of the Place du Tertre either watching the artists at work or searching for tables for a late lunch.

The entrance to the Place du Tertre by the Brasserie au Clairon des Chasseurs is a bottleneck at the best of times but particularly so on this Sunday afternoon.  A group of bare-footed street performers had pitched up completely blocking the thoroughfare.  The tourists were being particularly tolerant even though they were in gridlock.  Less so the artists.  Tourists mean money and any distraction that prevents the flow of tourists is unwelcome.  These street performers were definitely a distraction and therefore very unwelcome.

Despite exhortations for them to move on, the street performers remained resolute and continued their performance.

One artist was so incensed that he took matters into his own hands.  He emerged from the artist’s colony in the centre of the Place du Tertre with a glass bottle filled with water.  He sprinkled the water onto the road where the street performers were strutting their stuff and then he threw the bottle to the ground smashing it to pieces.  In the best French tradition, a huge altercation then ensued in which everyone joined in.

In situations like this, waving a camera around to capture the scene was probably unwise, or so I judged, since I was right in the thick of it.  Capturing the action in sound though is quite another matter!

For the French speakers amongst you, the colourful language is sufficient to capture the scene.  For those of you who are anxious to speak French by repeating what you hear, a warning.  Be very careful as to which of the words you hear in this sound clip you repeat in public – unless of course you too want to start an altercation in Montmartre or anywhere else for that matter!

Paris as seen from Montmartre:

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cheri
    Jan 30 2011

    I just discovered your blog and I love it! Your pictures are truly beautiful. I live in rural NW Oklahoma and visited Paris a couple of years ago and fell in love with the city. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Jan 30 2011

      Hi Cheri,

      I am delighted that my blog pleases you. If it pleases you then that pleases me! Your comment is much appreciated.

  2. Feb 3 2011

    This is tremendous! It’s like a condensed action film! I particularly like the gasps from the crowd which convey some of the unseen movement emotionally, proving you don’t need visuals for a narrative!

    Did you get this with the binaurals? Not the kind of situation you’d want to be standing holding a mic, I wouldn’t imagine… You’ve got to record a lot of footage before being “lucky” enough to get something like this. Well done…


    • Feb 3 2011

      Hi Jim,
      I was just in the right place at the right time. Yes, a furry gun mic would not have been a good idea!

  3. mingabelle
    Feb 11 2011

    Thanks, these sounds are wonderful, and the pictures and descriptions bring me right back to when I was in Paris 8 years ago.


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