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Barrel organs of Paris Options
Posted: Saturday, May 12, 2018 10:38:42 PM
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Joined: 6/30/2014
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Location: Rochester, New York, United States
Decades ago, I listened to the first of a set of records designed to teach yourself French—which included a native French-speaking woman (who, of course, spoke English too) guiding a novice (an American man) through the streets and vocabulary of Paris, teaching him in a companionable way. (I'm not sure if my father had the complete set or just the first record. I think they were 33-1/3 rpm LPs.) There were snippets of appropriate background sounds. The part I remember most vividly is when the pair encounters a barrel organ (a distinctive street instrument of Paris; it sounded rather like an accordion to me) on a Parisian street. Just after and the man asks what that is, there's a bit of delightful allegro music—I still remember the melody. The guide replies, "The bizet?" At least that's what it sounded like to me. It was a short word of two syllables. I played and replayed this segment, trying to get the word right, but I was left puzzled.

When I checked Google Translate and James Boielle's 1913 French and English Dictionary (posted online at archive,org), I found several possible translations of hurdy-gurdy, barrel organ, and street organ in French. I found orgue à manivelle, orgue de rue (street organ), orgue de Barbarie (barrel organ), vielle à roue (hurdy-gurdy), and orgue de fête (fairground organ) . . . none of which sound like bizet.

So I figured I'd post a query here.
Posted: Sunday, May 13, 2018 1:31:32 AM

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Could it be that she was talking of the composer of the piece they were hearing?
George Bizet wrote a number of catchy songs in his operas (Carmen) or in L'Arlésienne.
Either the guide or you may have misunderstood the question.

I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger. (Anon)
Posted: Monday, May 14, 2018 9:42:32 PM
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Joined: 6/30/2014
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Location: Rochester, New York, United States
My recollection was that the guide wasn't talking about the composer, but about the instrument. The American "tourist" is curious about the street music, the barrel organ (or whatever) that's playing merrily, and she tells him what it is. The music fades as the two presumably pass out of range.
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