Future Cities: the sounds of Paris
The next stop on our Future Cities tour of the world’s cities is another of its most iconic – Paris. Come with us and explore some of the fascinating sounds of this wonderful city – and hear how it’s brought inspiration to artists in their reimagined versions.
We start by the banks of the Seine, where a group of young men are playing street hockey in a disused public space outside the Air France HQ.
We are only yards away from the Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Les Invalides and some of Paris’ iconic river bridges, and yet this space has been reclaimed for urban sport.
Delia Racheru has reimagined this sound, and writes:
“It’s the beginning of time… the land is empty and all you can hear is the wind… People appear, they are building a city, you can hear cars, the horns and the wind transform into music, the music becomes chaotic and finally aliens emerge from underground. (piece entirely made from the original sound up to 1:51 when a kick and snare was added; DAW used: Ableton)”
Paris sounds are defined in part by history, and the city’s ancient churches are a part of that – here, ringing out for mass, we listen to the bells of Saint-Séverin, a 13th-century Gothic Catholic church in the Latin quarter of Paris.
It’s often said that the sound of a church’s bells are like an auxiliary heartbeat to their local community – their individual, particular sound is unique and as identifiable as the back of one’s hand.
Particularly in pre-industrial times, bells were the heartbeat of the entire town in the sense that they would dictate the regularity of the day – time to wake up, time to eat, time to pray and time to retire.
This piece takes that concept of the bell as the heartbeat of a community by blending those two sounds together – the bell sounds to the people of the Parisian Latin quarter, and is gradually overtaken by the sound of a heartbeat, until nothing remains of the bell and it is subsumed entirely by the body.
The city’s museums are also a part of Paris’ sounds – for our first visit, we’re outside the Pompidou Centre in Paris, where an old man with bags of food is feeding hundreds of birds, mostly pigeons and seagulls. As well as the usual bread, he has bags of seafood – the birds are climbing all over him, fighting each other and making an incredible amount of noise in what is clearly a very familiar ritual for both man and bird.
Philippe Neau reimagined this sound, and simply writes of his piece: “Paris. France. January. Birds. Birdy birds. People. Flight and walk. Waiting for the sun.”
There are so many spots in the city where you can just sit back and listen to Paris’ sounds as they flow past you – here is one such recording, recorded from a hotel balcony in the 2nd Arr. in central Paris, the sound of busy urban streets, motorcycles, car horns and daily life passing by.
Anthony Miller reimagined this soundscape, describing his inspiration like this:
“I imagined the future city as a dystopian place and wanted to represent echoes of the past in amongst that desolation. I used the segment of the sound of people and car horns.
“That is the sound that sticks in my memory of being awake at night in the city listening to the street sounds below.”
Finally, as we take our leave of the city, we explore its famous metro network with Jeremy Simoncello. This is a recording of Metro Line 14 in Paris from Olympiades to Saint-Lazare Station. The whole ride takes less than 15 minutes and I kept some ambient sounds from the stations before and after; the recording was made before 8.00 am between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, so there was hardly anyone on the train.
Our final reimagined piece for today is from Karhide, who composed a meditation “in a dream-like state travelling between two stations, plugged in and not part of the real world.”