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April 11, 2011


The Sounds of Paris Obscura Day

by soundlandscapes

HAVING HAD A TOUR of the blogging world earlier today, I see that much has been written about the success of the Paris Obscura Day which took place last Saturday and I expect that much more will be written in the days to come.  I would like to add my contribution.

Thanks and congratulations to Adam, Invisible Paris, not only for conceiving the idea but also for masterminding the organisation and making the day such a success. The idea to use the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale as the theme for the day was inspired.

My contribution to the day was to record the sounds of the garden and then to reproduce them at the evening event in Dorothy’s Gallery.

Sounds Inside the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale:

To record the sounds I made four trips to the garden, which is in a remote corner of the Bois de Vincennes, so I got to know it rather well. It’s far enough away from Paris city centre to have a countryside feel to it but not far enough away to escape the noise pollution we would all like to escape from.

The natural sounds of the garden – the birds, the occasional barking dog, the wind brushing the trees and the water sit cheek by jowl with the man-made sounds – traffic, aircraft passing overhead, workmen, bicycle riders and joggers. Like it or not, the sounds of the garden are what they are and what they have always been– a mélange of natural and man-made sounds.

The natural and man-made sounds of the garden:

This place may be decaying but sonically it’s far from dead.

And another place that is far from dead is Dorothy’s Gallery where the guests gathered on Saturday evening. This too provided a unique sonic tapestry.

A church bell recorded from Dorothy’s Gallery:

A surprising sound to be found in a gallery perhaps but there it was, unheard by the guests, but captured nevertheless.

And something else captured during the evening was this message from the caterers, Emperor Norton of Paris, whose quirky food take on the evening was a delight.

As far as I know, only one book has been written about the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale but there are lots of photographs providing an historical record of the place. To my knowledge, there is no record of the historical sounds of the garden. I have at least been able to capture its early twenty-first century soundscape which, alongside the photographs taken by Shane Lynam, may be of value to future historians. Let’s hope so.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Apr 11 2011

    Congratulations on what seems to have been a very successful and well received event. I look forward to “hearing” your next artistic collaboration.

  2. Apr 12 2011

    Fantastic work Des – thanks again for all you did to help the day be such a success.

  3. Apr 12 2011

    What a wonderful idea – so many of try to capture events and sites through words and images. It’s great to see your work recording them through sound. Sadly I missed the evening event, but very much enjoyed the morning walk through the garden. Your recordings of birdsong and footsteps on gravel bring back a real sense of the place.

  4. Apr 12 2011

    Beautiful, Des. Absolutely loving the juxtaposition of natural and manmade. I learned when I first moved to a big city to pretend that the white noise of traffic was a mechanical ocean, it somehow made it more “acceptable.”

    It was a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to exploring more of your exploratory sounds 🙂

  5. Audio Field Recorder
    Apr 12 2011

    Thanks Des for these wonderful ‘Raw Field Recordings’, It’s a pleasure listening to some real sounds at last!
    Were you using the Nagra LB? and which microphone? – it’s a nice wide stereo field, more like binaural!
    Best Regards

  6. Apr 12 2011

    I knew that you would get it right away. Yes, the Nagra LB and the Soundman binaural mics for the Jardin. It was the Sennheiser 416 mic and the Nagra LB for Dorothy’s Gallery – the only option because of the chatter in the background.


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