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November 8, 2012


A Soundwalk in the Rue Mouffetard

by soundlandscapes

THE RUE MOUFFETARD is a very old Parisian street, a Roman road leading south to Italy.  In the eighteenth century the area around the rue Mouffetard gained a reputation for violence and in the nineteenth century men from la Mouffe’ were always to be found on the Paris barricades at every opportunity from 1830 through to 1871. Balzac said that, “No neighbourhood of Paris is more horrible and more unknown”.

Times have moved on. Today, the rue Mouffetard is a street lined with shops, cafés, restaurants and a busy market. It’s a popular place and ideal for a soundwalk.

Much has been written about soundwalks and the art of sound walking and I confess that I find most of it impenetrable. It might be simplistic and perhaps unfair to those who toil over such things with such diligence, but I often think that if you have to explain it in great detail, and usually at great length, then you’ve somehow missed the point.

To me, soundwalks are simply about observing through active listening; listening to the sounds around us. Sometimes, the sounds around us are significant enough to define a particular place but more often they are simply the transitory sounds that provide the sound tapestry without which a place loses part of its identity.

I find soundwalks endlessly fascinating. I love the different textures of the sounds – the chatter of people and snatches of overheard conversations, the transitional sounds from outside to inside and from inside to outside, the clatter of teacups in a busy café, the differing sound texture of the traffic and the captivating sound of footsteps over the pavé.

For this soundwalk, I began by sheltering from the rain opposite a Franprix supermarket at the top of rue Mouffetard. The rain passed and I meandered down the hill calling into the bookshop, a café and another Franprix at the bottom of the hill.

A soundwalk in the rue Mouffetard:

And here is a visual account of my soundwalk:

A word about editing:

The sounds reproduced here are an edited version of my soundwalk which took over an hour. There is no processing or layering of the sounds, so the sounds you hear are the sounds exactly as they were recorded save for reducing a long recording down to a more manageable listening experience of some eight minutes and forty-five seconds.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 11 2012

    Nicely done, you always record the movement of life around you in such great detail, wheels on stone, voices, music. Just as sound is temporal, it seems as if the boundaries of these suburbs are also subject to a type of organic flow. Nothing is fixed.
    And, I agree about the discourse surrounding soundwalks. Amazing how something simple and enjoyable is turned into a needlessly obtuse theoretical structure.

  2. Nov 11 2012

    Thank you Jay! Your comments, from someone whose work I respect so much, mean a lot.

    What I find fascinating is that most people walking down the rue Mouffetard are completely unaware of these sounds. The sounds are there of course providing the sound tapestry but they probably don’t feature as an end in themselves. If the sounds were not there, say on Christmas Day for example, one would become acutely aware of their absence. I find that once we lift the sounds out of context and then listen to them they are able to breath and take on a life of their own. It is this aspect of sound walking that really interests me.

  3. May 3 2013

    I love this so much! I lived sur la Rue Mouff in 97-98 and this brings back the feeling of walking down my beloved street every day. Thank you for making this recording.

    • May 3 2013

      Thank you Eva, I’m so pleased you enjoyed this soundwalk. You were very lucky to live in rue Mouff, it’s a very special place which I visit often.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Space Invader @ Rue Mouffetard, Paris | Angelina Hue
  2. Space Invader @ Rue Mouffetard, Paris | Angelina Hue

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