Licensed musicians are jazzing up the Metro in Paris
Underground -- but a cut above
Street musicians have to audition to play the Parisian Metro
April 7, 1998
Web posted at: 11:38 a.m. EST (1638 GMT)
From CNN Correspondent Jim Bittermann
Paris (CNN) -- It may be rush hour in the Paris subway but these days there are reasons to slow down a little. On the Metro, commuting can be more than just getting from A to B, as the tunnels are alive with the sound of music. The music, both exotic and varied, makes commuters pause, even dawdle. It's music worth being late for.
That wasn't (and even today isn't) always the case. In the past, authorities periodically tried to eject would-be musicians who inflicted themselves on the traveling public. With their growing numbers, the situation seemed to be getting out of hand.
"We just put ourselves in the shoes of the riders. We want good quality music, not too aggressive and as diversified as possible."
--- Antoine Naso, former Metro musician
Transit officials came to the conclusion that if they couldn't beat musicians at the game, perhaps they could join them -- or at least organize them a bit better. So just over a year ago they set up auditions to select 300 or so performers to become the official musicians of the Paris subway.
And it is an ongoing process. Every six months, all the officially sanctioned
musicians must appear at a Metro audition. Antoine Naso, former Metro performer himself, videotapes them all for approval by a music committee.
"We do not have the pretension that we are selecting music virtuosos," Naso says through a translator. "We just put ourselves in the shoes of the riders. We want good quality music, not too aggressive and as diversified as possible."
For those selected to be the Metro's officially sanctioned performers, there is a badge which ensures they can work uninterrupted by transit authority police.
After a year of this new musical system, Metro authorities believe that their official musicians have raised the quality of underground performances, and the mood of the traveling public.
They have also proven that there is more than one way a subway can move
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