Sunday, June 23, 2013

Solstice music

Friday was a nice day, at least by my standards. The sweltering heat of previous days let up for a while, and apart from a few drops of rain, it was very pleasant. And it was quite cool considering the date, since Friday was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year (summer began at 7:04 AM local Paris time).

And where there’s a summer solstice, there’s a Fête de la Musique. I’ve talked about it before. In the early days, it was a license for every wannabe rock group to set up a few amplifiers on a street corner, crank them all to eleven, and allow everyone in the local galactic cluster to discover their utter lack of talent. Fortunately, those days are mostly gone. These days, the Fête de la Musique is mostly a set of official concerts and Major Media Events,™ although some of those are scarcely any improvement over the amateur bands of old. But at least the streets are no longer alive with the sound of non-music.

Near the Alexander III bridge
I worked late on the solstice and had no desire to visit any of the concerts or other events planned for the evening. I ate at one of the McDonald’s on the Champs. This McDonald’s tends to be filled with dregs from the banlieues sensibles outside the city, and the service is very slow, but it’s cheap and convenient, and their Maxi Big Mac menu with a cookie stick closely matches the face value of my Ticket Restaurant.

After eating, I walked home. There were several groups of young males, also apparently from those same banlieues, performing on the broad sidewalks of the Champs. Of course, they didn’t bother to pay for performance licenses for the recorded music they were using, and they provided a highly useful distraction for pickpockets loitering behind their audience. I always ignore them, as I am not interested in being relieved of my wallet, and I don’t care to support rogue performers who don’t feel that they are bound by the same rules as professionals.

On the Left Bank
Extensive work has been done on the Left Bank of the river to convert an expressway into a more pedestrian area, similar to what has been done on the Right Bank near the Hôtel de Ville. On the solstice there was an open house of sorts and there were many people down on the riverbank. It was difficult to tell if the work is done or not, and I didn’t bother to read the signs in detail. And the lighting was eerie: It was close to sunset, and the sun was hidden by clouds, but reddish reflections of sunlight from odd directions lit the area … and for some reason I found that troubling. As a result I just walked past it, but didn’t stick around.

The army band at the Invalides
On the Esplanade des Invalides, there was music, more or less. On the west side of the esplanade, there was an excellent army band playing jazz and popular favorites with relatively little amplification. They were very pleasant to listen to. Unfortunately, on the other side of the esplanade, there was some sort of son et lumière event with non-music playing. It sounded like distant fireworks and was heavily amplified, and interfered with the army band, even though the band was much closer to me. I didn’t cross the avenue to see what was making the noise on the other side, as it was already very loud from where I was standing and I knew I’d have to wear ear protection to see it up close. Besides, I liked the music that the army band was playing.

Eventually it started getting really dark, what with sunset coming up and the sun obscured by clouds, so I continued on home. Not only that, but my teeth were hurting a lot (several of them are rotting away, since I can’t afford dental care), and I needed to take something for the pain.

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