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City of Noise

City of Noise: Sound and Nineteenth-Century Paris

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    City of Noise
    Book Description:

    Beloved as the city of light, Paris in the nineteenth century sparked the acclaim of poets and the odium of the bourgeois with its distinctive sounds. Street vendors bellowed songs known as the Cris de Paris that had been associated with their trades since the Middle Ages; musicians itinerant and otherwise played for change; and flâneurs-writers, fascinated with the city's underside, listened and recorded much about what they heard. Aimée Boutin tours the sonic space that orchestrated the different, often conflicting sound cultures that defined the street ambience of Paris. Mining accounts that range from guidebooks to verse, Boutin braids literary, cultural, and social history to reconstruct a lost auditory environment. Throughout, impressions of street noise shape writers' sense of place and perception of modern social relations. As Boutin shows, the din of the Cris contrasted economic abundance with the disparities of the capital, old and new traditions, and the vibrancy of street commerce with an increasing bourgeois demand for quiet. In time, peddlers who provided the soundtrack for Paris's narrow streets yielded to modernity, with its taciturn shopkeepers and wide-open boulevards, and the fading songs of the Cris became a dirge for the passing of old ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09726-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    On July 4, 1835, the day John Sanderson (1783–1844) set foot in Paris for the first time, the street noise so overwhelmed him that he felt that Paris was “ahead of [his] experience”:

    As for the noise of the streets, I need not attempt to describe it. What idea can ears, used only to the ordinary and human noises, conceive of this unceasing racket—this rattling of the cabs and other vehicles over the rough stones, this rumbling of the omnibuses. For the street cries—one might have relief from them by a file and handsaw.—First theprima...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Aural Flânerie: The Flâneur in the City as Concert
    (pp. 11-34)

    Nineteenth-century urban experience often is apprehended through the figure of theflâneur. The flâneur is a mythic type that emerges in the late eighteenth century in urban sketches and panoramas such as Louis-Sébastien Mercier’sTableau de Parisand persists in the work of nineteenth-century writers and artists examined in this book, including writers and journalists Honoré de Balzac and Victor Fournel, poets Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé, as well as artists Jean-François Raffaëlli and Charles-Albert d’Arnoud, better known as Bertall. The flâneur is usually a man of leisure, but in less frequent cases, aflâneusestrolls through the city as...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Blason Sonore: Street Cries in the City
    (pp. 35-60)

    For nineteenth-century ears, street cries had always defined the ambiance of Paris. From the Middle Ages through to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, street cries were used by hawkers to publicize announcements or news and to sell merchandise of all kinds. Peddlers could be male or female itinerant, small-scale merchants. Whereas wagon vendors such as flower peddlers used a cart to transport their merchandise, pack peddlers such as glaziers or ragpickers carried their supplies on their body. Some made their rounds in the early morning hours, whereas others worked at night. Food vendors and some tradesmen performed “useful” services,...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Sonic Classifications in Haussmann’s Paris
    (pp. 61-81)

    The Paris we know today is the result of profound urban renovations directed by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, prefect of the Seine under the Second Empire. Commissioned by Napoléon III, Haussmann extended the work of his predecessors and redrew the city following a rationally designed plan. To him, we owe the wide boulevards, expansive crossroads, and vistas for which modern Paris is renowned. Indeed, Haussmann planned for “la grande croisée” to gut Île de la Cité and reconfigure the urban center along the lines of a cross artificially drawn on the preexisting urban fabric (boulevards Strasbourg-Sébastopol and Champs Élysées-Rivoli).¹ In addition...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Listening to the Glazier’s Cry
    (pp. 82-104)

    As attentive listeners to street noise, as well as observers of spectacles on the boulevards, nineteenth-century French poets were keenly attuned to the transformations of the sonic ambiance of Paris by the prefects of the Seine, especially Baron Haussmann. They listened to the ways in which old and new soundscapes collided and coexisted; They took note as high-pitched transient sounds such as street cries emerged against the continuous but lower-frequency rattle of traffic. Amid the ubiquitous street nuisances that overwhelmed nineteenth-century ears, the cries of peddlers hawking merchandise or services were invested with particular emotional force and artistic potential. Traditionally,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 “Cry Louder, Street Crier”: Peddling Poetry and the Avant-Garde
    (pp. 105-128)

    “Le Bruit” by the avant-garde poet Georges Lorin records the intensity of city noise in Paris where loud coachmen, carts, animals, and street musicians assail the flâneur-poet, but instead of toning down this clamor to render the city as harmonious concert, Lorin, following Charles Baudelaire, begs street criers to shout louder so that they may deafen him, make his head spin, and assuage his spleen. Street noise is reclaimed by these poets as an antidote to bourgeois complacency and as a critique of the sonic relations that condemn noxious behavior. Throughout this book, we have heard how street noise strained...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 129-138)

    One hundred and twenty-five years after the publication ofLes Types de Paris, in another time and place, you can still hear the jingle of street vendors peddling their services. As I drafted this conclusion in Montreal’s Mile End neighborhood, I was struck by surprise when I heard the amplified voice of the knife-grinder in the back alley. Therémouleur—it could have been Gilles or Tony l’Aiguiseur—circulated slowly in the streets alerting potential customers that he was available at this moment to sharpen your knives, your scissors, and your tools. No longer on foot, trailing sharpening equipment in...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 139-166)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 167-182)
  14. Index
    (pp. 183-194)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 195-198)