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October 8, 2015


Music in the Métro

by soundlandscapes

IT’S BEEN A WHILE since I last featured any street music on this blog but I now have the opportunity to put that right.


Changing trains at the Métro station Charles de Gaulle Étoile the other day I came upon a street musician who is often to be found playing his xylophone on the platform of Métro Line 6, the line that follows a semi-circular route around the southern half of the city from Étoile to Nation.

Getting a seat on a train on Line 6 at Étoile can sometimes be a challenge. A large crowd often assembles on the platform and I usually find myself forsaking the pleasure of listening to the music in favour of elbowing my way through the crowd in the hope of securing a seat on the arriving train. Which is a shame really because most of the musicians playing in the Métro stations are very good.

It’s not generally known, but musicians who play in the Métro – at least those who play there legally – have actually been selected to play there following a formal audition process.

The auditions were introduced because the Métro was becoming infested with itinerant so-called musicians who could barely scrape out a note from their battered violins or accordions.

Now, some 2,000 musicians attend the auditions and the artistic director of the Musiciens du Métro programme and representatives of RATP, the Paris mass-transit authority, judge their performances. Only 300 of them will be awarded the coveted badge that lets them play legally in the Métro and so, with a potential audience of some four million passengers a day, that’s a gig worth having.

When I was changing trains at Étoile the other day I had time on my side so I stopped to listen to the xylophone player, one of the successful badge holders, playing his music. And what a delight it was!

Music on the Métro:

Métro Station Charles de Gaulle Etoile - Line 6

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oct 8 2015

    Are there any sound blogs for Ireland?

  2. hmunro
    Oct 16 2015

    What a charming performance! I noticed during my last visit that the caliber of the Métro musicians had greatly improved — so for once I’m cheering a government scheme to regulate public artistic expression. Thank you for brightening my day with this cheery little sonic smile, Des.

    • Oct 20 2015

      Thank you, Heather. He’s good, isn’t he?

      My ambition is to record the man who plays the accordion and makes it sound like a cathedral organ with a cathedral organ repertoire. I haven’t heard him for quite some time so I’m not sure if he’s still around but I shall keep my ears open.

      • hmunro
        Oct 20 2015

        I would love to hear the accordionist you describe, Des! I do hope you’ll encounter him again at some point during your travels around the city.

        On that topic: Does it seem to you that there are fewer musicians playing on the streets of Paris these days? Perhaps my timing has been off, but I haven’t seen anyone for ages on the Pont D’Arcole, which used to be a magnet for street music. I do hope the city of Paris hasn’t been doing *too* good a job of cracking down.

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