Classical music calms ‘rowdy’ Paris commuters

Train stations in the Paris region have begun blasting classical music on to platforms, in what some observers see as a move to calm down youths who might otherwise attack or hassle fellow commuters.

Classical music calms 'rowdy' Paris commuters
Train commuters in the Paris region have chosen to play classical music on platforms. Some observers see it as a move to ward off gangs of youths. File photo: Beyrouth/Flickr

Rail network SNCF has begun playing classical music on platforms along its J, L and RER A lines, after a competition inviting commuters in the Paris region to choose which melodies they would like to listen to on their daily slog to work.

"After a bit of experimenting at the Poissy station, we listened to the feedback from clients and interviewed passengers who said that classical music made their journey more pleasant," head of the project Bruno Rocher told online magazing StreetPress.

The competition "Choose the musical atmosphere for your station" was rolled out along the J and L lines of the Transilien commuter trains and along the A line of the RER. 

The prize? A trip in the conductor's cabin. 

A statement fom the Ile-de-France commuter network underscored the soothing effect of classical music.

"From Chopin to Beethoven via Mozart, a testing phase has shown that the passengers appreciate this atmosphere that has made the stations more serene and pleasant," said Transilien.

Related: Ten tips to avoid getting robbed on the Paris Metro

Yet that serenity may be about more than introducing the musical canon to harried commuters.

StreetPress reported finding a year-old blog post from the network operators for line J, stating that classical music could be a handy tool in the fight against anti-social behaviour. 

"We are undertaking several actions to stand up against incivility," the statement, dated May 2012 said, adding that its employees were up against young people who effectively used the stations and trains as their own spaces.

"(They) squat at the stations and the accompanying behaviour (smoking, spitting, shouting, and listening to music) affects public order and creates unease," read the statement, 

"From now on, when our employees identify a group of young people that gives the impression of creating trouble, they can play classical music."

"Imagine, it works! Subjecting these persons to tunes they are not familiar with has the added benefit of making them flee," the statement added. 

The statement was removed by the train operators after media attention, however.  A spokesperson for the SNCF, the national train operators, said there was no link between the new initiative "Musique en Gare" and any previous attempts to quell anti-social behaviour.

"We're not coming at it from the same view point. We were made to understand that passengers, on their way home from work, were a bit stressed while they waited for their train," said SNCF.

"We want to make that moment a bit more zen," they added.

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8 of French duo Daft Punk’s most memorable moments

One of the era's defining dancefloor acts hung up their helmets on Monday, as French electronic music stars Daft Punk announced their retirement in a typically enigmatic fashion with a video showing one of them exploding in a desert.

8 of French duo Daft Punk's most memorable moments
Photo: AFP

From Da Funk in 1995 to Get Lucky in 2013, Daft Punk became the torch-bearers for French house music across the globe, winning six Grammy awards and pioneering the monumental sound-and-light shows that came to characterise the electronic dance movement (EDM) of recent years.

They did so while almost never revealing their faces — the ubiquitous helmets became another much-copied trope of EDM stars, but also afforded Thomas Bangalter, 46, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 47, a freedom from the fame that quickly encircled them.

“We have daily lives that are a lot more normal than the lives of artists who have the same level of fame as us, but who might be attached to being physically recognised,” Bangalter said in a rare authorised documentary by the BBC in 2015.

Here are some of the highlights of their career – although for our money nothing will beat the French army band’s performance of a Daft Punk medley at the Bastille Day celebrations in 2017, in front of president Emmanuel Macron and a plainly bemused Donald Trump.

1. “Daft punky thrash”

Bangalter and Homem-Christo met at school in Paris before an inauspicious start in music with the rock band Darlin’, which also featured a future member of the French indie band Phoenix.

One review in the British music press dismissed the band as “daft punky thrash” — which struck a chord with them.

Reemerging as an electronic outfit, they met with instant success.

This interview from 1995 is one of the few images of their faces:

2. Their signature look in “Around the World”

Early singles “Da Funk” and “Around the World” became club fixtures, and led to massive sales for their debut album “Homework” in 1997.

It was in the video for “Around the World” that they first donned the helmets that would become their signature look. It mirrored the tight control they exercised over every part of their career, which included ownership of their master recordings.

3. “One More Time”

They followed up with the even more successful “Discovery” in 2001, which spawned the hits “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.

There were some distinctively left-field choices in the years that followed, including producing the 2003 film “Interstella 5555” by Japanese anime master Leiji Matsumoto, which featured music from “Discovery”.

4. Human After All

While their next album in 2005, a more sombre “Human After All”, received mixed reviews, these were quickly forgotten amid the euphoria of their live shows over the next two years.

This included a headline appearance at US festival Coachella in 2006, performed inside a giant LED pyramid. EDM fans still speak about it with an almost religious reverence.

5. Tron soundtrack

In 2010, they released a soundtrack to the Disney reboot of Tron, which picked up a Grammy nomination.

6. “Random Access Memories”

But no one predicted the massive success of their last album, 2013’s “Random Access Memories”, for which they gave up their usual makeshift home rig for a full commercial studio– and used entirely live instruments.

The resulting work dominated album-of-the-year lists and helped lift their total worldwide sales to 12 million. It won four Grammies the following year including record of the year for “Get Lucky”, the millions-selling lead single featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.

Their appearance at the Grammy Awards show was their last public appearance for three years.

7. “I Feel It Coming”

They showed up one more time for the Grammy ceremony in 2017, alongside The Weeknd, after collaborating on the Canadian artist’s most recent album.

Despite the Twittersphere erupting in excitement last month amid rumours they would rejoin The Weeknd for the Super Bowl half-time show, that did not in the end materialise. 

8. “Epilogue”

The video titled “Epilogue” announcing their split used footage from their cult 2006 film “Electroma” in which one of the robots sets the auto-destruct of the other.

A cutaway then reads “1993-2021” with two robot hands making a circle around a sunset.

Their publicist, Kathryn Frazier, confirmed the news to AFP by email, without giving a reason for the split.