AT THE BEGINNING of June I published a blog piece entitled “The Voice of the 39 Bus” in which I described the recording of the bus stop announcements for the 39 bus route in Paris. I also introduced Andréa, the voice of the 39 bus.
I had been given exclusive access to attend the recording session held at the studios of Sixième Son, Europe’s leading audio branding and sound identity agency. Song Phanekham, the man responsible for the sound identity of RATP (Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens), the Paris mass transit authority, was there and he directed the recording session.
All the names on the 39 bus route were recorded by Andréa by repeating them two or three times, sometimes with a slightly different inflection, so as to give Song more choice in the editing. Great care was taken to ensure exactly the correct pronunciation and inflection for each name.
An extract from the recording session:
The 39 bus travels from the Gare du Nord in the north of Paris to Issy – Frères Voisin in the south-west. The journey takes about an hour depending on the traffic.
The terminus at Issy – Frères Voisin is simply an ordinary bus stop in an ordinary leafy street surrounded by tall rather plain buildings.
I travelled the full length of the 39 bus route on Saturday from the Gare du Nord to Issy – Frères Vosin and back again and the good news is that I was accompanied by Andréa, or at least by her voice, which has now been installed in the 39 buses. I recorded my journey in both directions.
Travelling this route is rather like travelling on a tour bus, you get a really fascinating view of this city.
Some sounds from the 39 bus route:
Here I have selected a montage of some, but by no means all, of the sounds of the journey which, for those of you who know Paris, will conjure up fascinating images … Porte Saint-Martin, Porte Saint-Denis, Poissonnière – Bonne Nouvelles, Grand Boulevards, Bibliothèque Nationale, Palais Royal – Comedie Française, Musée du Louvre, Pont du Carroussel – Quai Voltaire, Saint-Germain des Près, Sèvres – Babylon, not to mention the Hôpital des Enfants Malade, Colonel Pierre Avia and of course the not quite so glamorous, Issy – Frères Voisin. All this comes for the price of a bus ticket and the joy of having one’s bones rattled as the bus bounces over the all too frequent pavé.
There are couple of things you might find of interest.
First, Paris bus stop names are derived from the names of streets or buildings in the vicinity of the bus stop so, for example, the stop for the Hôpital des Enfants Malade is right outside the hospital. Some bus stop names though comprise two names like Palais Royal – Comedie Française for example. This simply means that the bus stop is between the Palais Royal and the Comedie Française just as the stop Pont du Carroussel – Quai Voltaire is at the junction of the Pont du Carroussel and the Quai Voltaire. It’s simple really.
Second, the bell often heard on a Parisian bus is not, as in some countries, a signal from a passenger to the driver to stop at the next stop but rather a signal from the driver to those outside the bus to beware. A signal best heeded!