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June 20, 2012

Saturday at the Marché aux Puces

by soundlandscapes

I WENT TO THE Marché aux Puces at Porte de Clignancourt on Saturday, the largest flea market in the world so they say. I was on a mission, hunting for sounds and particularly for the sound of a rag and bone man.

In the late nineteenth-century, the area around Porte de Clignancourt was awash with rag and bone men, known as chiffoniers in French or sometimes, more poetically as, pêcheurs de lune, moonlight fishermen. Why I need the sound of a rag and bone man is a long story but let’s just say that it wasn’t my most successful sound hunting day. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a rag and bone man to be found.

Nevertheless, the day was far from wasted. On my travels I came upon what appeared to be an ordinary café in the Rue des Rosiers.

I should have known better. Few things in this city are ordinary.

This is the celebrated Chope des Puces de Saint Ouen, a restaurant, a concert hall, a music school, a recording studio, a shop selling musical instruments and above all, a temple to jazz manouche, gypsy swing or hot club jazz, inspired by the magic of Django Reinhardt.

Espace Django Reinhardt:

If you happen to be in Paris between the 22nd and 25th June this would be a good place to visit since the Festival Jazz Musette des Puces is taking place.

Also taking place at the moment is a wonderful exhibition in the Marché Daupine.

 “Hifi Génies” is an exhibition specifically designed to send sound nuts like me into a state of rapture. It includes a selection of equipment covering the history of sound reproduction. As always, it was the tape recorders that captivated me, ones like these studio models from Ampex and Studer.

And this one made by the French company Bordereau and used by the French national broadcaster RTF (Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française) in the 1950’s.

There were other tape recorders on show including Revox, Pioneer and some cassette recorders as well as some other Hi-Fi equipment but undoubtedly, for me at any rate, the stars of the show were these three beauties from Nagra.

Nagra II c (First introduced in 1955)

Nagra III (First introduced in 1961)

Nagra 4.2 (First introduced in 1972)

The Marché aux Puces comprises fourteen individual markets with around three thousand individual shops and stalls. It sells everything from complete junk to eye-wateringly expensive antiques. In every narrow alleyway and round every corner a surprise lies in wait. But few surprises could please me more than finding the Espace Django Reinhardt and three classic Nagra’s on the same day. I think the search for a rag and bone man can safely wait for another day.

For those of you who wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to tape recorders, thank you for getting this far and I hope you at least enjoyed the music from the Espace Django Reinhardt.

For those slightly crazy people like me who find reel to reel tape recorders, and especially Nagra tape recorders, things of wonder and endless enjoyment you can find more Nagra recorders here … and here. Enjoy!

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