Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

30 October 2010

Paris street music

I’M ALWAYS ASTONISHED by the quality of the music to be found on the streets of Paris. Whether it’s the classical musicians and opera singers to be found under the arches in the Place des Vosges, the jazz bands in St Germain des Prés, the street musicians in Montmartre or the buskers in the Métro, street music fills the air of Paris and I have recorded them all. 

Parisian street music is an old tradition out of which emerged no less than Edith Piaf who began her career by singing in the streets of Paris. I wonder how many others will rise from the streets of Paris to the world stage?

Whether it is legal or not to play music on the streets in Paris is a difficult question to answer since the regulations are shrouded in the fog that is French bureaucracy. What is clear though is that street musicians don’t have the right to ask for money. It’s up to you to decide whether or not to leave a token of your appreciation by dropping some loose change into one of the boxes that adorn every street musicians pitch.

Here is my token of appreciation to the street musicians of Paris.

Recently, I came across a very down-at-heel gentleman in the Metro station Charles de Gaulle Etoille playing an even more down-at-heel accordion. Having deposited my token of appreciation in his box he gave me a virtuoso performance.

From the wonderful sounds that the street musicians make – the stunning individual performances and the terrific ensemble pieces – I admit to taking a special delight in the sounds that conjure up the sounds that represent the Paris that I love.

This gentleman is sometimes to be found in the rue Mouffetard – and not only does he make his little street organ sing but he also sings himself.

. . . And I mentioned Edith Piaf earlier. Here is a gift which was recorded in Montmartre earlier this year. Unwrap and enjoy.

Des Coulam has a passion for recording and preserving our sonic environment. He writes and records the Soundlandscapes blog at