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April 17, 2011


Through an Open Window

by soundlandscapes

THE MOULIN ROUGE in Pigalle is a magnet for tourists. At almost any time of the day or night you will find people standing in front of it queuing to buy tickets or waiting to get in to see the scantily clad dancers perform. Across the street, people with cameras in hand flirt with the traffic trying to capture images of this Paris icon.

Of all the tourists who flock to this place I suspect very few venture a few steps to the left of the Moulin Rouge and explore its next-door neighbour, the Cité Véron.

Named after a local resident and Mayor of Montmartre from 1830 – 1841, this charming cul-de-sac sits cheek by jowl with its more well-known and lively neighbour in quiet contentment. On a beautiful spring day I went to explore the Cité Véron.

This cobblestone alley has an intimate feel. It’s eighty metres long and just three metres wide and in the springtime the lush vegetation leans over to occupy what little space there is for pedestrians.

The sound of the traffic from the busy Boulevard de Clichy close by seems to almost disappear the further along this alley you go. But on the day I went, the sound of the traffic was replaced by a completely different sound.

Not surprisingly on a beautiful spring day, birdsong was in the air but there was something else too … the sound of a piano. The Cité Véron is lined with high walls causing the sound to reverberate so it was difficult to tell exactly where the sound was coming from. I could tell though that it was not coming from an extra loud CD player, this was the real thing – somewhere, someone was playing a piano.

Further investigation eventually led me up some stone steps to an open window and a wonderful surprise. Through the window came the sounds as a répétiteur played the piano accompanying a full-blown ballet class.

This was no children’s Saturday afternoon dance class – this was the real thing. Beautiful, supple young women gracefully pushing their bodies further than bodies should be pushed – all under the command of an authoritative, elderly gentleman issuing his orders in time to the music.

Beautiful young women, arabesques, pliés and the sound of a piano through an open window is not quite what I expected when I arrived in the Cité Véron. But, it seems that this place does, after all, have something in common with its more raucous next-door neighbour.

This post is dedicated to a friend of mine, a former ballet dancer. I’m sure these sounds will bring back mixed feelings for her – the pain of the tortuous practising rewarded only by the joy of performing.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. catie
    Apr 17 2011

    it is sheer joy to listen and imagine being there 🙂

  2. Apr 19 2011

    What a great moment to stumble upon and record. I loved the mix of the exterior and interior sounds; a very nice slice of Parisian life.

  3. Apr 19 2011

    Thanks for your comment. This was one of those “golden moments” which seem to come completely unexpectedly. The recording is unedited and unprocessed – it is exactly as it happened. Moments like this make all the effort that goes into street recording seem worthwhile. I have a feeling that this recording could turn out to be my “Sound of the Year”.

  4. Peter (the Other)
    Apr 23 2011

    And I just so happened to have my head phones on for this…. WOW! The balance of the voice, piano and room is so perfect,,, and one can still feel the proximity of the open doors… the birds not so much left behind as overwhelmed. Makes me wonder about the corporeal response to the just unheard respirations, aural mirror neurons at work?

  5. Apr 23 2011

    Thanks Peter.

    I’m pleased you like this sound. It was so unexpected – I just stumbled across it and was captivated by it.

  6. Dec 31 2011

    I LOVE PARIS .. keep the sounds coming. Happy New Year 2012

  7. Pete Guppy
    Dec 31 2011

    a beautiful piece of binaural, great pics also, I do enjoy your recordings very much…

    • Dec 31 2011

      Thanks Pete. I’m pleased you like my sounds of Paris. It’s a joy to share them.

  8. Mar 22 2012

    It is so beautiful! The moments when your footsteps sound and then when you get nearer and nearer to the sound of the piano. Great atmosphere. Love your photos.

    • Mar 23 2012

      Thanks Regina, I’m pleased you like this piece. It was just one of those rare moments when the sounds capture the entire atmosphere of the place.

  9. Aug 7 2013

    Thank you so much for this. My wife and I have stayed twice in an apartment in Cite VeronYou have captured the aural ambience of this street and this city. By the way, one evening we listened to a male choir rehearsing as the sun set on a perfect late summer day… A sound memory I’ll always cherish.


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