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Posts from the ‘People’ Category

9
Mar

The Phono Museum – ‘When Music Was Magic’

THE YEAR WAS 1889 and Belle Époque Paris was in the midst of a golden age. Relative peace, economic prosperity, technological and scientific innovation and a flourishing of the arts had superseded the catastrophe of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and the bloody events of the Paris Commune. A spirit of optimism prevailed across the city.

In Pigalle, Mistinguett, (Jeanne-Marie Bourgeois), later to become the highest paid female entertainer in the world, was performing at the café-concert, le Trianon in Boulevard de Rochechouart, Aristide Bruant, dressed in his trademark red shirt, black velvet jacket, high boots, and long red scarf, was poking fun at the upper-crust guests who were out ‘slumming’ in this lower-crust territory and a new mecca of pleasure and entertainment, the now world-famous, Moulin Rouge, had just opened its doors for the first time.

Across town, the Champ de Mars, the Trocadéro, and the quai d’Orsay were hosting the gigantic Exposition Universelle, the latest of four World Fairs to be held in the city. The newly constructed and then still controversial Tour Eiffel stood at one end of the Champs de Mars at the entrance to the Exposition and at the other end, opposite the École Militaire, stood the Galerie des Machines, a vaulted building spanning the largest interior space in the world at the time.

While the American sharpshooter, Annie Oakley, was performing to packed audiences in Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West Show” at the Exposition, another American, the inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison, was the centre of attention in the Galerie des Machines.

The Edison exhibition occupied two pavilions, one dedicated to electric light and the other to the phonograph. Edison’s phonograph was not the only sound-reproduction device presented at the Exposition but it was the only one to hit the headlines.

No praise seemed too warm for Edison, the man who had ‘tamed the lightning with his incandescent lightening system’ and ‘organised the echoes with his phonograph’.

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Thomas Edison, “The Types of Edison Phonographs,” The Paris Universal Exhibition Album (1889), CXLI

While both the Galerie des Machines and the risqué performances of Mistinguett have long since disappeared, Thomas Edison’s legacy lives on just across the street from the Moulin Rouge and le Trianon in Pigalle.

Phono Mueum

Opened in September 2014, the Phono Museum is one of the newest museums in Paris and the only museum in the city dedicated to the history of recorded sound.

Phono Mueum

Jalal Aro, Founder of the Phono Museum

The founder of the Phono Museum, Jalal Aro, is passionate about ‘talking machines’, mechanical sound-reproduction devices from an age when ‘music was magic’*. Although he is an enthusiastic collector and restorer of phonographs and gramophones he doesn’t see them simply as interesting objects, he believes they only have real meaning when they come to life and actually speak. Consequently, as well as his enormous collection of phonographs and gramophones he also has an even bigger collection of wax cylinders, records, posters and other memorabilia which occupies every nook and cranny of his Phono Galerie next door to the Phono Museum.

Founding the Phono Museum was Jalal’s way of sharing his passion for the history of recorded sound with a wider audience.

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

Jalal has a very democratic approach to sound. He believes these precious objects should be accessible to all and that becomes obvious when you enter the museum. For an admission fee of just €10, you can stay for as long as you like, explore the exhibits on your own or, if you prefer, Jalal, Charlotte, or one of the other staff will give you a personal guided tour of exhibits ranging from Thomas Edison’s 1878 tin-foil machine, to Emile Berliner’s 1897 flat-disc machine, magnificent two-horn, two-reproducer, dance hall machines, gramophones cleverly disguised as elegant furniture, talking dolls and lots more. All the exhibits in the museum work so the sound of music fills the air.

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

Last Sunday morning, before the museum opened, I went along to talk to Jalal about the museum and, very excitingly for me, to record some of the sounds of his ‘talking machines’.

Jalal Aro talks to me about the Phono Museum:

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

The museum is a non-profit organisation and, with no financial support so far from the City of Paris, it relies solely on ticket sales and voluntary donations to cover its costs.

As Jalal says in the interview, anyone making a donation becomes a valuable stakeholder in the museum. Click on this link to learn more: https://www.ulule.com/phonomuseum/

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

In 1889, Thomas Edison’s phonograph captured the public imagination at the Exposition Universelle with a dream: ‘that of preserving humanly generated sound for – as the hyperbole went – eternity’**.

Visit the Phono Museum in Pigalle and you can share that dream.

Phono Mueum

With my thanks to Jalal Aro for giving up his Sunday morning to talk to me and for his permission to share sounds from the Phono Museum on this blog.

The Phono Museum is at:

53, boulevard de Rochechouart, 75009 Paris

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

* When Music was Magic: history, phonographs and gramophones from 1879 to 1939 / / by John Paul Kurdyla.

** Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair By Annegret Fauser

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8
Jun

Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil – Latest News

IN MARCH THIS YEAR I published a blog piece about the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, the botanical garden set within a large greenhouse complex at the southern edge of the Bois de Boulogne.

Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil

In that piece I recounted how these gardens, first established in 1761 under Louis XV, are under threat because of plans by the Fédération Française de Tennis to extend the neighbouring Roland Garros international tennis complex into the south east corner of the gardens. This extension, if it goes ahead, will include the demolition of the nineteenth-century Jean-Camille Formigé greenhouses to make way for a new, semi-sunken, tennis court with seating capacity for 5,000 spectators.

Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil

At the time of writing my last piece about the gardens the Paris City Council had just unanimously adopted a resolution that a further study into an alternative plan proposed by local residents associations and supporters of the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil should be conducted by an independent organisation so that the Paris City Council could debate and then vote on it.

But now, things have moved on again.

Last Wednesday, despite the unanimous resolution of the Paris City Council, the French Prime Minister, Manual Valls, issued a statement instructing Ségolène Royal, the French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, to sign the Permis de Construire, the building permit required before work on the Roland Garros extension can proceed. So far, Ségolène Royal has not done so.

Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil

On Sunday afternoon, as Stanislas Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic were locking horns on the Philippe Chatrier court in the Men’s Final of the French Open Tennis Championship at Roland Garros, friends and supporters of the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil were making their voices heard at the entrance to the gardens on the avenue de la porte d’Auteuil.

Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil

I went along to offer my support and I was able to speak to Madame Lise Bloch-Morhange, Speaker of the Comité de Soutien des Serres d’Auteuil, the lead opposition group to the proposed extension. This is what she told me:

Lise Bloch-Morhange:

Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil

The recently opened Fondation Louis Vuitton, the privately financed modern art gallery designed by Frank Gehry, has, with government acquiescence, encroached on to what was supposed to be an environmentally protected part of the northern Bois de Boulogne. The government claims to have conceded to the choice of site because of the prestige the gallery brings to the city.

In the southern Bois de Boulogne the Fédération Française de Tennis claims that retaining the prestigious French Open Tennis Championship at Roland Garros depends upon extending their facilities and that the only credible plan is to extend into the Jardin des Serres. In addition, France intends to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games and it is claimed that, as part of that bid, an extended Roland Garros is essential.

Undoubtedly, a Frank Gehry designed modern art gallery, the French Open Tennis Championships and the Olympic Games are smothered in prestige, probably adding millions if not billions to the economy. But one is surely entitled to ask, at what cost?

Imagine a desecrated Jardin des Serres with a semi-sunken tennis court with seating capacity for 5,000 spectators standing empty and completely unused for fifty weeks of the year. The cost of that would not be measured in millions or billions of Euro’s but in a more intangible and equally important currency, what the French call patrimoine, our heritage, the value of which lies in our hearts not in our pockets.

Note:

My thanks to Lise Bloch-Morhange for taking time out of her very busy afternoon to stop and record these comments.

8
Sep

Soundwalking in Paris with Antonella Radicchi

LAST MONTH I HAD the privilege of spending a delightful afternoon in Paris with the Italian architect and researcher in urban design, Dr Antonella Radicchi.

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Antonella Radicchi

Antonella studied at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning (USA) and at the Faculty of Architecture in Florence. She has taught and lectured both in Italy and abroad and since 2011 she has collaborated on research projects with Tempo Reale, the Florence based Centre for Music Research and Education. She has eight years teaching experience at university level and a distinctive record of publications in the field of soundscape studies and urban design.

Her primary research interests centre upon the interaction between people and the environments they inhabit focusing on the involvement of the population into the planning process of urban soundscapes through the development of open source platforms and open data sets.

Antonella is also the editor of the firenzesoundmap, an interactive, open source tool, which has become a collective sound map of the city of Florence through the involvement and the participation of the Florentine population, city users and tourists.

Antonella has kindly agreed to share her reflections about our meeting and also to share the Parisian sounds she recorded.

Soundwalking in Paris by Antonella Radicchi

I have been following the work on Parisian soundscapes by Des Coulam for quite a while and when I was about to leave for Paris in the middle of August I thought I’d drop him a line to ask whether he would be up for soundwalking in Paris. To my great delight, he replied offering to meet up the following Friday. We were to meet in front of the Porte Saint-Michel entrance to the Jardin de Luxembourg at 2pm.

I couldn’t wait!

Since 2007, Des – who describes himself as “a flaneur, endlessly walking the streets of Paris, observing through active listening” and, […], capturing “that gratuitous, never-ending show for which no ticket is needed.” – has been recording and archiving the “contemporary sound tapestry” of Paris so carefully and comprehensively that the British Library has been acquiring Parisian field recordings from his archive. Yet, his interest in recording sounds dates back to Christmas Day 1958 when he woke up to find that Father Christmas had brought him a tape recorder!

His idea of a “contemporary sound tapestry” is extremely fascinating: he prefers “sound tapestry” to “soundscape”, which is the widely accepted term, since it always reminds him that our lives are immersed in a complex system of interwoven sounds. Des is used to exploring and binaurally recording the Parisian soundscape through “active” soundwalking, which is quite different from the traditional method – usually practiced along a predetermined path at slow pace with the main purpose of listening to the environment. Whilst Des soundwalks along a predetermined path, which constitutes kind of a reference, he records sounds as if painting a picture: if he hears something special, he immediately goes off the route looking for that, “giving the sounds time to breath and to speak as they all have a story to tell” – as he insightfully commented while we were soundwalking.

So, on August, 15th at 2pm we met in front of the Porte Saint-Michel entrance to the Jardin de Luxembourg and I was immediately surprised by this generous man who offered to let me conduct the soundwalk taking advantage of his binaural recording equipment, which I was very excited to experiment with as I have never used this method before.

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Des’ binaural recording equipmentMarantz PMD 661 Mk11 sound recorder and Soundman OKM II Classic in-ear microphones

He also gave me lots of inspiring suggestions about how to soundwalk and about binaural recording techniques.

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Me wearing Des’ binaural microphones and listening to Des’ suggestions about how conduct the soundwalk

Then, he was patient enough to answer to all the questions I asked him about soundscape studies, field recording and audio archiving techniques and we ended up debating and formulating hypotheses on the difference between listening to soundscapes in real time and listening to the recorded versions – which so far has remained an open ended question I am still thinking about!

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Me and Des chatting about soundscape studies, field recording, and audio archiving techniques.

Finally, it was time to do some soundwalking and recording. We started with a first soundwalk at the Jardin du Luxembourg, which you can listen to here.

Antonella in the Jardin du Luxembourg:

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My soundwalk route around the Jardin du Luxembourg

Then we moved to the Latin Quarter, close by the Pantheon and we did two more soundwalks, one along rue Descartes and one along rue Mouffetard, which you can listen to here.

Antonella in rue Descartes:

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My soundwalk route along rue Descartes and Place Contrascarpe. Note the domed Panthéon on the left and the oval-shaped Roman Arènes de Lutèce on the right

Antonella in rue Mouffetard:

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My soundwalk route along the rue Mouffetard from Place Contrascarpe to the Eglise Saint-Médard. Rue Mouffetard was originally a Roman road running from Roman Lutèce (now Paris) to Italy

I am very grateful to Des for the time he dedicated to me and for having so generously shared his passion and knowledge of field recording the Parisian “sound tapestry”. I came back to Italy full of energy and enthusiasm from the afternoon we spent together and I am still benefiting from that.

I hope I will have the chance to meet Des again to do more soundwalking together before too long.

And please, if you stop over in Paris, do not miss the chance to meet him. It will be a deeply rewarding experience!

3
Jan

Paris – A Personal View

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.

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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.

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Above and below … The sculptures of Décure

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The Arche Fontis

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

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

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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.

6
Apr

Paris – A Personal View

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 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 tells us why it’s special to them.

Today my guest is Monique Wells.

02-08-2011 Monique at the Luxembourg Garden

Photo by Kim Powell

A native Houstonian and 21-year resident of Paris, Dr. Monique Y. Wells wears several professional hats.  She is a consultant in preclinical safety assessment, a time management/productivity expert, and an expert on African Diaspora Paris.  She owns two small businesses – one as a solopreneur and the other with her husband.  A writer and editor in multiple disciplines, she enjoys investigating her topics thoroughly with an eye for the unusual, untold story. She is also passionate about travel and about food and wine.

As an African-American woman living in France, her interest in African Diaspora history and culture in Paris led her to create Discover Paris!’ Entrée to Black Paris™ Afro-centric walks and activities.  It also inspired her to found the French non-profit association called Les Amis de Beauford Delaney.  Having successfully placed a tombstone at the previously unmarked grave of painter Beauford Delaney, the principal goal of the organization is now to increase awareness of Delaney’s work.

And Monique’s chosen place? The Jardin du Luxembourg

©Monique Wells at the Jardin du Luxembourg:

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Preparing to record in the Jardin du Luxembourg 

Photo: © www.discoverparis.net.

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The photographic exposition of the Tour de France on the gates of the Jardin 

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Photo: © www.discoverparis.net.

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Palais du Luxembourg – The Luxembourg Palace

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Le poète ou Hommage à Paul Eluard (1954)
Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967) 

Photo: © www.discoverparis.net.

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The Apiary

Photo: © www.discoverparis.net.

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Horloge, Palais du Luxembourg

Photo: © www.discoverparis.net.

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L’Acteur grec, by Arthur Bourgeois and a view of the Panthéon in the summertime 

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La fontaine Médicis – The Medici Fountain

Photo: © www.discoverparis.net.

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The first crocuses

Photo: © www.discoverparis.net.

I am very grateful to Monique for giving up her time on a blustery, early Spring day to visit and talk about the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Courtesy Note:

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

13
Feb

Paris – A Personal View

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 doesn’t actually live in Paris but she is a regular visitor to the city so much so that she considers Paris to be her second home.

Heather Munro

Heather Munro 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.

And Heather’s chosen place? The Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

©Heather Munro at the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris:

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I am very grateful to Heather for giving up her time and for braving the wind and the rain to visit and talk about the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris.

You can find out more about Heather here on her website and you can catch up with her blog here.

Courtesy Note:

Unlike other sounds on this blog, the sound piece ‘Heather Munro at the Cathédrale Notre Dame 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.

5
Feb

Paris – A Personal View

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 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 tells us why it’s special to them.

Today my guest is Forest Collins.

Cocktail-stalker, opinion-foister, and things-happening-maker, Forest Collins, seeks out superlative cocktails in the city, spills all on the blog and shares these spots with readers through regularly organized soirées. Her blog, 52 martinis, is the most widely read English language blog on Paris cocktail bars. You’ll also find her frequently writing about unusual eating and drinking experiences for well-known Paris based websites and publications. Join in the fun by following her on twitter @52martinis or check out the 52 martinis blog.

And Forest’s chosen place? The Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Forest Collins at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise:

Photo from Wikipedia

Memorial to the Dead

Oscar Wilde’s Tomb … Before 

Oscar Wilde’s Tomb … Today

Photo from Wikipedia

I am very grateful to Forest for giving up her time to visit and talk about the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

Courtesy Note:

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

4
Dec

Paris – A Personal View

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 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 tells us why it’s special to them.

Today, my guest is Adam Roberts.

Photo courtesy of Adam Roberts

Adam is an Englishman who has lived in Paris for a little over fifteen years. As well as doing his demanding day job Adam finds time to write the very informative and popular Invisible Paris blog – a celebration of the parts of Paris that would be refused entry to the ville musée if they tried to get in today.

And Adam’s chosen place? The Hôpital Salpêtrière

Adam Roberts at the Hôpital Salpêtrière:

Hôpital Salpêtrière

Mur des Fermiers Généraux – The Farmers-General Wall

Former Women’s Prison Cells

Charcot’s Library  Photo courtesy of Adam Roberts

Bâtiment de la Force

Chapelle Saint-Louis

I am very grateful to Adam for giving up his time to visit and talk about the Hôpital Salpêtrière.

Thanks Adam.

Courtesy Note:

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

20
Nov

Paris – A Personal View

I AM DELIGHTED TO present a new series of pieces for this blog entitled, Paris – A Personal View.

For each piece in the series I will invite a guest who lives in Paris to visit one of their favourite places or a place in this city that has a special meaning for them. With access to a microphone and sound recorder, the guest will talk about the place and tell us why it’s special to them. I’m certain that throughout the series the mixture of people, places and styles of delivery will make for interesting and fascinating listening.

To begin the series I am delighted to present a personal view of Paris from Susie Kahlich.

Photo courtesy of Susie Kahlich

Susie is an American screenwriter living in Paris.  In addition to her screenwriting work, she is editor of the cinema section at Vingt Paris Magazine, and a published author and poet.

And Susie’s chosen place? The Parc Monceau …

©Susie Kahlich in Parc Monceau:

 

 

I am very grateful to Susie Kahlich for making time in her busy schedule to record this piece and for giving us her very personal view of the delightful Parc Monceau.

Thanks Susie.

Courtesy Note:

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

10
Sep

A Conversation With Victoria Fenner … Documentary Poet

VICTORIA FENNER LIVES and works in Canada. With a background in radio and television broadcasting for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and in community based media, Victoria is now an independent radio producer, sound artist and successful businesswoman.

Victoria runs a production company producing journalistic and feature material for radio, Internet, podcasts and video. Much of her work on the themes of social justice, the environment, poverty reduction and global women’s rights has been syndicated nationally and internationally. She also runs ‘Sound Out Communications’, a media production, training and distribution company, working with video, audio and still images. Victoria has a special interest in community radio and in the exploration of the artistic possibilities of radio.

Apart from her very successful broadcasting and business career, Victoria is also one of Canada’s leading sound artists. She travels extensively collecting sounds, which she uses to compile wonderful works of sound art. In this increasingly important part of her work she sets out to listen to the world and to hear it in new ways expressed in rhythms, words, textures and harmonies.

When I first discovered Victoria’s work I was captivated by it and I knew that I had to find out more about the person behind these fascinating sounds. I approached Victoria and she readily agreed to speak to Soundlandscapes’ Blog.

A Conversation with Victoria Fenner:

My conversation with Victoria would not be complete without including some her work. When I suggested this to Victoria she readily agreed to share some of her sounds with us.  The selection is important because it covers the spectrum of her work. These pieces have not been edited to appear here, they are what they are – full-length, original works.

The first piece is called Restoration Sinfonietta, a soundscape made entirely of sounds made by hammers, saws, rachets, power drills and other implements of mass construction.

Restoration Sinfonietta:

The next piece, You Can’t Miss It, is an audio map about getting lost in the Appalachian Mountains. Victoria produced this piece when she was living in Kentucky where getting lost seemed to be a full-time occupation 

You Can’t Miss It:

This piece, Qui Chante, was my first introduction to Victoria’s work and so it’s a particular favourite of mine. It’s a soundscape based on the Lourdes Grotto, an outdoor 
cathedral in the busy borough of Vanier in Ottawa. It explores the theme of quiet, silence and the sacred voice in the 
heart of the secular city. We are encouraged to 
think about our human voice connecting with the voice of the divine
 in a sea of noise created by a secular world.

Qui Chante:

And this selection of Victoria Fenner’s work wouldn’t be complete without a piece from her vast radio repertoire. In my conversation with Victoria we spoke about documentary poetry and radio as art space. This next piece beautifully encapsulates both of these concepts. After Exile was commissioned by the Deep Wireless Radio Art Festival and one of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s best programmes, “Living Out Loud”.  Steve Wadhams, the award winning CBC Radio producer, co-produced this piece with Victoria. For me, this piece represents the very best of radio – imagery, emotion, involvement and a sense of really being there and sharing the experience. Never have the terms documentary poetry and radio art seemed so appropriate.

After Exile:

In ‘After Exile’ Victoria Fenner was herself and Edward Moll was the ghost of Raymond Knister.

Today, we are blessed with so many sound artists producing individual and original works of sound art. I listen to many of them and enjoy the compositions they produce. Victoria’s work though appeals to me especially because of its simplicity. She takes simple sounds, sometimes words but often the everyday, often ignored, sounds around us and transforms them into poetry … documentary poetry. And please don’t confuse simplicity with being easy to produce. As one who has wrestled endlessly with simple sounds I can attest that simple is often much harder than you think. I really enjoy the way that Victoria makes her documentary poetry seem simple. That is a great gift aspired to by many but enjoyed by few.

I really hope that you’ve enjoyed listening to my conversation with Victoria Fenner. If this has given you as much pleasure to listen to as it’s given me to produce then it will have all been worthwhile. If you’ve enjoyed it please leave a comment. Victoria and I would really like to know what you think.

Victoria has been extraordinarily generous in sharing both her words and her sounds with us so it just remains for me to say a very big thank you! Thanks Victoria … until the next time!