LAST SATURDAY I headed off for the rue des Martyrs in the 9th arrondissement to record a soundwalk to add to my archive of Paris Soundscapes. As is often the case, things didn’t turn out quite as I’d planned.
The rue des Martyrs stretches for a little under 1km from rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette to rue Lamartine in Montmartre. The street has had several names during its lifetime beginning with rue des Porcherons, then rue des Martyrs followed by rue du Champ de Repos and then finally, from 1868, once again rue des Martyrs.
I decided to make life easier by beginning my soundwalk at the Montmartre end, which is the street’s highest point and so everything would be downhill from there. When I reached the top of the street I realised that the Place des Abbesses was just round the corner so, before embarking on my task for the day and since I hadn’t been to the Place des Abbesses for a while, I thought I’d go and take a look. It proved to be a most fortuitous diversion.
I discovered a Bretagne weekend in full flow the centrepiece of which was la Fête de la coquille Saint-Jacques, sponsored by le département des Côtes-d’Armor. A dozen or so stalls were selling all things Bretagne from crêpes and craquants au beurre salé to regional wines and wonderful coquille Saint-Jacques, freshly brought from port d’Erquy.
I couldn’t resist stopping to savour the atmosphere and taste a selection of the fare on offer. And then I came upon a complete surprise, something to make a sound hunter’s day complete.
A group of singers were assembled and as I came upon them they began to sing a French song I particularly like, Le Gamin de Paris.
Le Gamin de Paris:
Adrien Marès composed the music for Le Gamin de Paris and Mick Micheyl who, contrary to what you might think, is in fact Paulette Michey, a very popular French singer who later in life became a respected sculptor, wrote the words.
Le Gamin de Paris draws a fascinating picture of a typical 1950’s Parisian ‘kid’ –
“Il est tout l’esprit, l’esprit de Paris qui musarde,
Pantalon trop long pour lui
Toujours les mains dans les poches
On le voit qui déguerpit
Aussitôt qu’il voit un képi”
Roughly translated as:
‘… the spirit of Paris that dawdles, with pants that are too long for him, hands always in his pockets, who takes off at the first sight of a kepi’ (a French policeman).
Whenever I hear this song I am instantly transported to the black & white world of Robert Doisneau and the other great French street photographers who captured so brilliantly the atmosphere upon which this song is based. This particular rendition was unexpectedly, but not unpleasantly, accompanied by the bells of the Église Saint Jean-de-Montmartre which made a dramatic intervention but which I think added a delicious extra atmosphere.
And so, awash with the spirit of Bretagne and the black and white world of 1950’s Paris, it was back to the present day, the rue des Martyrs and a soundwalk along the full length of the street capturing the everyday mélange of sounds that I always find so fascinating.
Rue des Martyrs – A Soundwalk:
Some sights of the rue des Martyrs:
IT’S NOT OFTEN that one gets the chance to visit a brand new Métro station and travel on a brand new section of Métro track but that’s what I did last month.
A new station, Front Populaire, was opened on 18th December 2012 at the northern end of Paris Métro Line 12 making it the 302nd station on the Paris Métro network.
For the time being, Front Populaire becomes the new northern terminus of Line 12 but a further extension will add two more stations, Aimé Césaire, close to the canal Saint-Denis, and Mairie d’Aubervilliers, both expected to open in 2017. After that, in a further example of RATP’s joined-up thinking, the plan is for a further extension to connect to RER B at La Courneuve and Tram Line 1.
I went to visit the Front Populaire station shortly after it opened and I was impressed. Work began in mid-2008 and it took four years to complete the tunneling and the construction work on the station.. The station is spacious and the upper reaches are well lit by natural light coming through the large glass roof. It has seven escalators and three elevators for those who want to avoid the stairs.
I was a little surprised to discover that the tunnels are air-conditioned to ensure a constant temperature of between 10°C and 14°C, cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. All the technical facilities are also temperature controlled.
This being a brand new station, the tracks are in pristine condition as yet untouched by oil and grease from the trains or detritus from the public. It can’t last! And the new track has an effect on the sounds of the trains.
Sounds of the one-stop journey from Front Populaire to Porte de la Chapelle:
The trains run very smoothly and much faster on this new section of track than they do on the rest of Line 12. It’s fascinating to listen to the sounds change as the train approaches Porte de la Chapelle where it slows down and joins the old track. The whoosh of the new line reverts to the clunkety-clunk so familiar to commuters on Line 12.
As well as this extension to the northern end of Line 12, thought is also being given to an extension to the southern end, which currently terminates at Marie d’Issy. An extension to Issy-les-Moulineaux is envisaged connecting with Tram Line T2. Work on this extension could start somewhere before 2020.
This proposed new extension will bring new track, new sounds and a more comfortable ride than today’s bone-shaking arrival at Marie d’Issy. Here are the sounds from the southernmost end of Line 12 as it is today from Convention station to Porte de Versailles, Corenton Celton and Marie d’Issy.
Convention to Marie d’Issy:
SOME PARTS OF FRANCE get quite a lot of snow at this time of year but here in Paris we usually miss the worst of it. Some years we don’t see snow at all in the city but occasionally it visits us and when it does the city takes on a completely different atmosphere.
This was the view from my balcony on Sunday morning and I discovered that I even had my very own icicle clinging to an overflow pipe from the floor above.
The snow arrived on Friday evening and there were gentle snowfalls again on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon I went for a walk in my neighbourhood and found men at work clearing the snow from the pavements.
I spend the greater part of my time actively listening to the sounds of Paris so I welcome the snow because the sounds around me take on a completely different texture and I get to record sounds that are not there for the greater part of the year, like the sounds of the men clearing the snow.
Sounds of snow clearing:
Often considered to be the enemy of the field recordist, the cacophony of traffic surrounds all city dwellers but when it snows the cacophony of sound melts into something much softer and more delicate, something that seems much more in tune with the human condition.
Sounds of traffic in the snow:
At my local Hôtel de Ville, where just a few weeks ago stood a colourful carousel, a busy Christmas market and hoards of excited children, there was just snow with a tiny snowman standing guard over this municipal edifice. It was starting from here that I recorded my short walk home.
Walking home in the snow:
Although I spend a lot of my time walking far and wide capturing the sound tapestry of the city, on Sunday I only had to walk a few steps from my home to capture the characteristic sounds of Paris in the snow.
‘IN THE FIELD‘ is a two day international symposium exploring the art and craft of field recording which will be held at the British Library Conference Centre, London, on February 15th and 16th. It will open up and explore the practice, art and craft of field recording through a series of panel presentations, listenings and screenings. Starting from the early days of field recording the symposium aims to relate the multitude of contemporary field recording practices to their historical precedents and investigate issues in contemporary practices. These include: How field recordings are distributed to and heard by an audience; Recording the unheard; Mapping the urban; and questioning the extended nature of the field in a digital networked landscape.
The symposium is a collaboration between CRiSAP (Creative Research in Sound Arts Practice) and the British Library and part of the Sounds of Europe Project with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union.
A galaxy of people synonymous with field recording will be contributing to the symposium and, if you’ll forgive a little shameless advertising, so will I. I shall be speaking about my work recording and archiving the contemporary sounds of Paris – the sound tapestry of a city on the cusp of huge change.
This promises to be a great event so if you’re interested you can click onto WWW.CRISAP.ORG to get the booking information.
I hope you can make it, it would be great to see you.
THE FRENCH ARCHITECT, Théodore Charpentier (1797 – 1867) specialised in designing theatres and restaurants. Amongst other things, he rebuilt the Opéra Comique after it was destroyed by fire in 1838, he designed the neo-Renaissance decor of the restaurant, “Trois Frères Provençaux”, in the Palais-Royal and he also built the Café Pierron. In 1842, he turned his attention to the Place de la Madeleine then, as now, an elegant and very expensive part of Paris. Charpentier was charged by the people who owned the Société du passage Jouffroy with designing and building a Galerie, a passage couvert, between the Place de la Madeleine and the rue Boissy d’Anglais, the Galerie de la Madeleine. Work began on the Galerie in 1840 and it was opened in 1846.
At 53 metres long and 4 metres wide the Galerie de la Madeleine was not the biggest of the nineteenth-century passages couverts but it was in a prime location and to ensure success location was everything. As well as being in a very fashionable part of Paris, the adjoining rue Boissy d’Anglais was a terminus for the early nineteenth-century stagecoaches providing a regular supply of eager customers with money to spend. There was also a very popular restaurant next door, Lucas-Carton, an English style tavern famed for its cuts of cold meat and puddings, which attracted visitors to the Galerie. This restaurant is sill there. Now named Senderens – Lucas-Carton, it’s noted for its Novelle Cuisine and no doubt still attracts customers to the Galerie de la Madeleine.
The demise of the stagecoaches signalled the decline of the passages couverts and although some of them disappeared altogether, others struggled on and survived and, like the Galerie de la Madeleine, have been preserved retaining some of their former elegance. But today, although now listed as a national monument, the Galerie de la Madeleine faces a further threat. Over the years, property prices have exploded and some of today’s small businesses and artisans have been forced to leave.
Sounds inside the Galerie de la Madeleine:
One business in the Galerie that has survived and continues to flourish is Chez Benjamin, a tailor’s shop.
The window display with an antique flat iron and pictures and engravings of fashion from the last century sets the tone of this “old fashioned” tailor’s shop.
Catering for both men and women’s tailoring needs, Monsieur Benjamin and his wife run this wonderful shop with impeccable service and style.
There are other boutiques in the Galerie de la Madeleine but there are empty spaces too. On the day I went to the Galerie there were one or two people sitting outside the cafés but most of the people there were passing through, using it as a short cut between the Place de la Madeleine and the rue Boissy d’Anglais, with very few of them even stopping to look in the windows let alone going into the boutiques. I couldn’t help wondering what the future holds for the Galerie de la Madeleine.
Galerie de la Madeleine:
9, place de la Madeleine / 30, rue Boissy d’Anglais
PARIS TRAM LINE 3, the orbital tram route or, the tramway des Maréchaux, has been extended and is open for business.
Tram Line 3 follows the site of the old military road that ran along the inside of the fortified Thiers Wall, the last defensive wall surrounding Paris built around 1840. The wall was demolished in the 1920s, enabling the building of a series of boulevards encircling the city each named after Marshals of Napoleon’s French Empire, and consequently called the Boulevards des Maréchaux. These boulevards run just inside the city limits with the Boulevard Périphérique, the wall of traffic that surrounds Paris, running just beyond them on the site of the former Thiers Wall itself.
Tram Line 3 has been running along part of this route, from Pont du Garigliano to Porte d’Ivry, since December 2006. Work began on extending the route in 2009, adding 14.3km of track and 24 new tram stops, and the extended line was opened on 15th December 2012.
The extended route heads northeast from Porte d’Ivry, crosses the Seine to an interchange with Métro Line 1 at Porte de Vincennes. It continues north through the Lilas district where it connects with metro lines 3bis, 11 and 7bis, then curves westwards to terminate at Porte de la Chapelle, where it connects with Métro Line 12.
The cost is said to be €651·9m, of which €433·6m has been funded by the city and €218·3m by Ile-de-France. The city has contributed a further €149m for urban enhancements, whilst RATP has funded the 25 additional Citadis 402 trams at a cost of €77m.
When the line extension was opened, Tram Line T3 was divided into two separate services, the existing route becoming Line T3a, linking Pont du Garigliano with Porte de Vincennes, while Line T3b covers the eastern and north eastern section from Porte de Vincennes to Porte de la Chapelle.
The Paris City Council has also now given approval for a further 4.7 km extension of T3 from Porte de la Chapelle to Porte d’Asnières expected to open in 2017. It is envisaged that a further extension from Porte d’Asnières to Porte Maillot is possible but, as yet, there is no talk of an extension from Porte Maillot to Pont du Garigliano to complete the circle around Paris.
Shortly after the new extension opened I went to have a look. I travelled from the very smart tram stop at Porte de Vincennes to the end of the current extension, Porte de la Chapelle and I was very impressed.
The trams are the Citadis 402 model built in France by Alstom. They have a low-floor ensuring easy access for people with reduced mobility and they are equipped with air-conditioning and CCTV. Each tram comprises seven modules with a total capacity of 304 people. Six asynchronous motors with a rated output of 120 kilowatts drive each tram and the 750 volts of power required is supplied by overhead pantograph.
The trams travel at up to 20km/h (although they can theoretically travel much faster) and they take priority at all road junctions. They are extremely quiet thanks, in part, to the tramway being grassed over for a good part of the route. This helps to reduce vibration and noise to both those inside and outside the tram. Incidentally, to save water the grass is watered automatically at a variable rate depending on the weather.
The trams run every four to five minutes during peak hours and six to eight minutes off-peak, Monday to Friday. On Saturday, the interval between trams varies from six to nine minutes during the day and seven to ten minutes on Sundays and holidays.
And now for the really exciting news …
For a long time I’ve taken a great interest in the sounds of the Paris mass transit system and so I was especially excited to hear that new, very innovative, tram announcements are being incorporated on Tram Line 3 to coincide with the extension of the line.
The City of Paris and RATP (the Paris mass transit authority) have commissioned selected contemporary artists to create special artworks along the route of Tram Line 3. One of the artists, Rodolphe Burger, former leader of the French rock band Kat Onoma, and head of La Compagnie Rodolphe Burger, was asked to come up with an innovative way of announcing the names of the tram stops. RATP stipulated that it was important that each announcement should have two inflexions and that the sounds should be heard but not be intrusive.
The work took two years to complete and Rodolphe Burger and his team have now come up with 42 different short melodies for each of the 42 tram stops on Tram Line 3 and each of the tram stop names are announced by different voices. The idea was to mix different type of voices, male and female, from any age, any background, any accent, including the occasional celebrity! A call for volunteers met with a large response especially among people living near the line. In total, 602 different voices were recorded.
So when you travel on Tram Line 3, you never know which voices you will actually hear, only the melodies remain the same.
Thanks to RATP, I am able to share with you some examples of the sounds that Rodolphe Burger and his team created in their original form – before they made their way onto the trams.
Examples of the tram stop announcements:
Sounds courtesy of RATP
And it’s not only in sound where RATP is innovative. Of the eighteen tram stops on Tram Line 3b between Porte de Vincennes and Porte de la Chapelle, seven of them are named after prominent women:
(Marie de) Miribel; founder of the hospitalières de la Croix Saint-Simon,
Séverine; writer, journalist and feminist,
Adrienne Bolland; French aviator and the first woman to fly over the Andes between Chile and Argentina,
Delphine Seyrig; Stage and film actress and film director,
Ella Fitzgerald; American jazz singer, the “Queen of Jazz”,
Rosa Parks; African-American civil rights activist and,
Colette Besson; French athlete and winner of the 400 m at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
In order to give you a snapshot of what the new announcements sound like from inside a busy tram, I’ve extracted these seven tram stop names from my journey for you to listen to.
Seven station names:
And, if you would like a more immersive experience, why not join me for the whole journey from Porte de Vincennes to Porte de la Chapelle. The journey takes thirty-five minutes and you can hear all eighteen tram stop announcements in real time just as I and all the other passengers heard them.
Porte de Vincennes to Porte de la Chapelle:
With grateful thanks to Song Phanakem, the man responsible for the sound identity of RATP, whose help is always invaluable and much appreciated.
LA PATINOIRE DE L’HÔTEL DE VILLE is the outdoor skating rink that appears every year around Christmas outside the Paris City Hall. This year, it opened on 18th December and it will remain open until 3rd March.
Known as Paris sur Glace or, Paris on Ice, there are in fact two skating rinks, a large one for more experienced skaters and a smaller one for children and novices.
Entry is free although there is a €5 charge to rent a pair of skates if you don’t have your own.
This patinoire is very popular and when I went (to watch not to skate!) they were queuing round the block to get in.
Sounds of Le Patinoire de l’Hôtel de Ville de Paris:
If you’re in Paris and want to take to the ice in front of the very impressive Hôtel de Ville with the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris in the background, La Patinoire de l’Hôtel de Ville de Paris is open until 3rd March 2013 from 12h00 to 22h00 Monday to Friday and from 9h00 to 22h00 on Saturday and Sunday.
THE MUSÉE DES ARTS FORAINS is a fairground museum housed in the former wine warehouses at Cour Saint-Émilion in the 12th arrondissement.
It’s a private museum created by Jean Paul Favand and it contains a fascinating collection of carousels and funfair stalls, all restored and in working order, as well as costumes and historic works from 1850 onwards.
This is a private collection and so it’s usually only possible to visit the museum by appointment only. They cater mainly for group visits and corporate functions but occasionally the museum opens its doors to the general public. One such occasion has been over this Christmas and New Year period so I took advantage of it and paid a visit.
Having paid my €12 entry fee, I was transported into the world of the funfair, a world full of colour, spectacle and entertainment.
I was captivated by this old cycle carousel and even more captivated by the sounds as the ride got underway and the cycles and their riders trundled round and round. It’s fascinating to think that these are the same sounds that anyone visiting this carousel would have heard over a hundred years ago.
Sounds of the cycle carousel:
The museum comprises themed rooms each with its own take of the world of the funfair. “Les Salons Vénitiens” offers an Italian opera show performed by automatons as well as a gondola carousel. “Le Théâtre du merveilleux” offers a glimpse of the turn of the century world fairs including a superb sound and light show. “Le musée des Arts Forains” is a tribute to the 19th century funfair and the Théâtre de Verdure exhibits splendid gardens.
The museum has many historical funfair games that have entertained generations of adults and children alike. My favourite was the Parisian Waiter Race in which each waiter is moved by rolling balls into holes, complete with running commentary.
The Parisian Waiter Race:
There are outside exhibits too and, this being an open-house day, it wouldn’t be complete without food …
… and, of course, street music.
The Street Musicians:
And I couldn’t end without mentioning the fabulous costumes on display, some of which were once to be seen in that other Parisian palace of fun, the Folies-Bergère.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year and, if you’re in Paris, I thoroughly recommend a visit to the Musée des Arts Forains which you can find at:
53 Avenue des Terroirs de France, 75012 Paris
Phone for réservations: 01 43 40 16 22
Métro: Cour Saint-Émilion – Line 14