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January 3, 2014


Paris – A Personal View

by soundlandscapes

I am delighted to present a new piece in my Paris – A Personal View series.

For each piece in the series I invite a guest who lives in or has a close connection to Paris to visit one of their favourite places or a place in the city that has a special meaning for them. With access to a microphone and sound recorder the guest talks about the place and tell us why it’s special to them.

Today my guest is Heather Munro.

Heather Munro

Heather is a writer, editor and photographer (though not always in that order) who grew up in Great Britain, Mexico and Peru (in exactly that order) before finally settling down in the United States. Whenever she is able, she greatly enjoys travelling and discovering new places and new cultures. But of all the places she’s visited, Paris is still her favourite.

This is Heather’s second contribution to my Paris – A Personal View series. Last year she told us about the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris and why it is important to her. This time her chosen place is …

The Catacombes de Paris – The Empire of the Dead.


Heather says …

“In January of 2013, I had the privilege of meeting Des and talking about the Notre Dame cathedral. It was such a wonderful experience that Des was among the very first people I contacted when I learned I’d be returning to Paris. Through our correspondence, I discovered that he hadn’t yet visited another of my favourite Paris places. And although the catacombs may seem like an odd choice for soundwalk, I realised in hindsight that a tour of these dark tunnels was in fact the perfect companion to our previous piece about Notre Dame, the monument that for me most symbolizes the City of Light. I extend warm thanks to Des for another extraordinary Paris experience.”

Heather Munro at the Catacombes de Paris:

Stairs into the catacombs

A simple stone staircase takes visitors about 65 feet below the streets of Paris into a small portion of the sprawling network of tunnels known as ‘the catacombs’

Tunnel entrance 2

This curving tunnel is typical of the first half of the catacombs tour. Visitors must walk through tunnels like this for over a mile before they arrive at the ossuary.


Above and below … The sculptures of Décure



The Arche Fontis


A white plastic tag in the roof to measure the movement of the crack



Above and below … The entrance to the ossuary – The Empire of the Dead












The Cloche de Fontis

I am very grateful to Heather for giving up so much time on her busy European trip to record this visit to the Catacombes de Paris and for the opportunity to meet her husband, Steve, for the first time. My thanks to them both for their company and hospitality.

You can listen to Heather’s Personal View of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris here and you can catch up with more of her adventures at HeatherBlog and on her website.

Heather Munro narrated this visit to the Catacombes de Paris and took all the photographs. The sound was recorded by me, Des Coulam.

Courtesy Note:

Unlike other sounds on this blog, the sound piece ‘Heather Munro at the Catacombes de Paris’ is not covered by a Creative Commons license. The copyright for this piece rests jointly and exclusively with Heather Munro and Des Coulam.  It follows therefore that the downloading of this piece for any purpose is not permitted without the express permission of both Heather and Des. We have no wish to spoil your enjoyment of this piece but simply ask you to respect that the work is ours. The copyright for the pictures rests exclusively with Heather Munro. Thanks for understanding.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. hmunro
    Jan 3 2014

    What a privilege it’s been to collaborate with you again, Des!

    I have one belated question to pass on, though: A few days ago, I was telling my sister about our tour of the Catacombs, and she asked whether your recordings had picked up anything “unusual” while we were in the tunnels. She was referring to voices from the Great Beyond, of course — but my mind turned to more practical matters: Did you, by chance, pick up any sounds from the nearby métro stations? If we visit the Catacombs again I’d be keen to mike the walls of those tunnels and give them a listen.

    In any case, thank you for another marvelous experience in Paris. You’ve taught me to appreciate my favorite city in a new way, and for that I will forever be grateful. Thank you.

    • Jan 3 2014

      Thank you Heather. The privilege was all mine!

      Your question about picking up ‘unusual’ sounds is a good one. You will remember that when I was recording the sounds of the dripping water in one of the tunnels I mentioned to you the low rumble in the background – a sound that was completely undetectable to you and only available to me thanks to a microphone and headphones. Unlike the human ear, microphones are totally promiscuous – they pick up anything and everything, which is why I find exploring our sonic environment so fascinating. I will return to the Catacombs with my ‘contact microphones’, special microphones designed to detect the sounds inside solid objects, to see what stories the walls have to tell.

      As for voices from the ‘Great Beyond’ … capturing one of those would make the best Blog piece ever!

      Thank you once again for contributing this wonderful exposition of the Catacombes de Paris to my Paris – A Personal View series. I look forward to working with you again before too long.

      • hmunro
        Jan 3 2014

        Ah, yes! HOW could I have forgotten your comment about microphones’ promiscuity? As soon as I read that phrase I did indeed remember our conversation; please pardon my Swiss-cheese memory. Still, I’m glad you’re considering going back with some contact microphones. I will very much look forward to hearing what stories those walls may have to tell!

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  1. Europe Scrapbook: Paris Day 23 | memories & dust

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