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August 9, 2017


In and Around Métro Lamarck-Caulaincourt

by soundlandscapes

NAMED AFTER THE FRENCH comedian, humorist and member of the French Resistance, rue Pierre Dac is just 23 metres long making it one of the shortest streets in Paris. Originally forming the upper part of rue de la Fontaine-du-But linking rue Lamarck and rue Caulaincourt in the 18th arrondissement, the street’s name was changed in 1995 in honour of Pierre Dac.


The distinctive red sign in rue Pierre Dac points us towards the Métro station Lamarck-Caulaincourt and tells us that this station once formed part of the three Paris Métro lines owned by the Nord-Sud Company, or to give it its proper name, la Société du chemin de fer électrique souterrain Nord-Sud de Paris. In 1931, the Nord-Sud Company was taken over by its competitor, la Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris, which in turn was nationalised in 1948.

The Métro station Lamarck-Caulaincourt is perhaps best known for its distinctive entrance nestling between the two staircases that form most of rue Pierre Dac.


Lamarck-Caulaincourt station was opened on 31st October 1912 and today it forms part of the Paris Métro Line 12 linking the stations Front Populaire in the north to Issy-les-Moulineaux in the south. The station platforms were renovated in 2000 – 2001 and further work was carried out in 2006.


Lamarck-Caulaincourt platform before renovation


Lamarck-Caulaincourt platform today

Since Lamarck-Caulaincourt station was constructed under the butte Montmartre, the large hill that forms the village of Montmartre, it’s not surprising that the station platforms are some 25 metres below the station entrance. For those who arrive at the station by train and find the 25-metre climb out of the station a challenge, RATP have thoughtfully provided a lift to make life easier.


Sounds around Lamarck-Caulaincourt station platforms and an exit by lift:


I recorded the sounds inside the station to add to my extensive archive of sounds of the Paris Métro network but I also recorded sounds from the staircases in rue Pierre Dac outside the station, which I found to be equally fascinating.

I sat on one of the staircases and simply observed life passing by just as the photographer did in the 1925 photograph below.


L’entrée de la station de métro Lamarck-Caulaincourt entre les escaliers de la rue de la Fontaine-du-But, vers 1925. Photo collection Jean-Pierre Rigouard.

Sounds from the staircase in rue Pierre Dac:


Entrance to the Métro station Lamarck-Caulaincourt between the staircases in rue Pierre Dac (formerly la rue de la Fontaine-du-But), August 2017

Sitting on a staircase in the street observing the world passing by might not be everyone’s idea of a good day out, but at least I wasn’t the only one!


Observing through active listening is what I do and whether it’s the sounds of a Métro station platform or the sounds of a staircase in the street I’m always captivated by the stories sounds have to tell to the attentive listener.

Although we can see from the photograph what this place looked like in 1925, I can’t help wondering what it sounded like then and what stories those sounds would have told us.



3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Heide
    Aug 9 2017

    I loved the first recording especially because at first it sounded so mechanistic — perhaps because I’m used to the sounds of the métro, the warning beeps and overhead announcements and closing doors most caught my attention. But by the end the landscape had shifted almost entirely to a more human one, hadn’t it, with the child’s repeated calls for his mom’s attention. There was something so beautiful and plaintive and intimate about that moment, and you’ve captured it forever. I’m SO GRATEFUL you are out there, quietly going about your work … and grateful also that you’re sharing it here with the rest of us.

    • Aug 11 2017

      Thank you for your comment, Heide – much appreciated.
      I’m busily recording the sounds of the older trains on the Métro before RATP’s torrent of new investment replaces them with newer, more comfortable, more efficient but sonically less interesting models. Yes, the plaintive sounds came from the child as we got into the lift and travelled to the surface. Apart from the warning beeps, the lift mechanism was unusually silent so the child’s voice was able to take centre stage.
      Did you notice that the sounds I recorded on the outside staircase were distinctly summer sounds? Only one pair of heavy shoes to be heard and those from an RATP employee leaving work for the day. All the other footsteps were from light, summer shoes. See, all sounds have a story to tell!

      • Heide
        Aug 12 2017

        I did not notice (or even consider before) the sound of “summer shoes.” It goes to show how much I still have to learn about being an attentive and observant listener, but I am very fortunate indeed to have you and your marvelous recordings for a teacher.

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