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Let’s Travel to … Paris (Ohh-la-la!)

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Champs Elysees with Arc de Triomphe. Library of Congress collections
Champs Elysees with Arc de Triomphe.  Photographic print. Library of Congress Collections.

How about exploring different places around the world guided by NLS Music materials? In this blog I would like to start by taking you to Paris.

Suivez-moi for a visit to the Louvre museum.

Mona Lisa. Black and white. Dry plate negative of the painting.
Mona Lisa. Dry plate negative of the painting. Library of Congress Collections.

What is the one painting we must see? Of course, the Mona Lisa. Learn the easy piano version of Nat King Cole’s song about the woman with the mystic smile with Bill Brown’s Piano by Ear lesson on Mona Lisa (DBM03461). Or learn the guitar version of Mona Lisa and sing along with The 666 Fake Song Book by Giant Music Mates (volume 19 of BRM24360). If you’d like to listen to the story behind Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, download and enjoy the book Becoming Mona Lisa. The Making of a Global Icon by Donald Sassoon (DB 54099).

Now let’s step out of the museum and head west, just a minute away, to the Tuileries Gardens. Listen to the digital talking book on Pictures at an Exhibition (DBM00635), or play the piano version of Modest Mussorgsky’s Tuileries from his Pictures of an Exhibition (BRM20966). The music starts with a children’s musical round of a repeated falling minor third. Mussorgsky’s music was inspired by Victor Hartmann’s painting of the Tuileries gardens.

Tuileries Garden. Photochrome print.
Tuileries Garden. Photochrome print. Library of Congress Collections.

Continue your walk west and experience the busy Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Play what George Gershwin heard and included in An American in Paris, his composition first performed in 1928. To make the sounds more realistic Gershwin included four real taxi horns. Check out our braille piano reduction by requesting Gershwin’s An American in Paris: An Orchestral Tone Poem in Miniature for piano in bar by bar format (BRM05571).

Au Moulin Rouge by Toulouse-Lautrec (1892).
Au Moulin Rouge by Toulouse-Lautrec (1892). Color lithograph. Library of Congress Collections.

Ready for more? Head northeast and explore the artsy Montmartre area. In her early days, Edith Piaf sang here in a bar called “Au Lapin Agile.” You can learn her famous song La vie en rose by borrowing vol. 4 of Just Standards Real Book (BRM36374). If you play the flute, you may like to learn Au petit bal de Montmartre from Jean-François Verdier’s collection called Cartes postales. 32 petites pièces originales et faciles en forme d’études, pour flûte et piano (BRM36450). You might prefer playing the Hammond organ with the braille score for The Song from Moulin Rouge – Where Is Your Heart by William Engvick and Georges Auric (BRM33717). Or perhaps you would rather listen to how Henri Renie created musical interpretations of five paintings including Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Moulin Rouge in the digital talking book Passion in Pink (DBM00015). If you are interested in learning about world-famous artists connected to the Montmartre area, download this book from BARD In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and the Birth of Modernist Art by Sue Roe (DB 86170).

Let’s now close the loop of our first walk through Paris. We will head back south to the Île de la Cité, the center of France, to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral. The monumental building from the middle ages has an immensely important role in Western music history. Rhythm and polyphony were invented right here in the 12th century. This absolutely groundbreaking musical evolution came to life with the composers Leoninus and Perotinus. Learn about the development of musical notation by listening to Capturing Music: the Story of Notation by Thomas Forrest Kelly. Chapter four of that book is specifically dedicated to the Notre Dame Cathedral (DB 80802).

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photochrome print (between 1890 and 1900).
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photochrome print. Library of Congress Collections.

Fun fact: Did you know that there is a special stone in front of the cathedral on the Parvis Notre-Dame now called place Jean-Paul-II, from which, to this day, all road distances in France are measured? 

Place Jean-Paul-II, formerly Parvis Notre Dame in Paris. Image of the stone from which all road distances in France are measured. The stone is a circle and reads: Point Zero des routes de France.
Image of the Point Zero Stone in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Used with permission. Wikimedia. Jean-Pierre Bazard Jpbazard [CC BY-SA]
Ah, there are more places to explore in Paris, and in other locations. We will travel there in future blogs.

You can download most of the above mentioned materials from BARD. You can also request copies of the music materials in braille, large print or audio formats by contacting the Music Section. Simply call us at 1-800-424-8567 option 2, or e-mail us at [email protected].

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