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 Two strikes lead up to the peel of church bells, Lasalle

Two strikes lead up to the peel of church bells, Lasalle

Today is le quatorze juillet, the 14th July. In Australia we call it Bastille Day (after the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution) but in France it is referred to as la fête nationale (national day) and as such is a public holiday. We woke to the sound of two canon blasts (or what sounded like canons). Perhaps this signifies that it is the national day, a celebration of French culture and all things French. 

All the shops and business are fermé (closed) except for a few exceptional places like the DIY shops (read a French equivalent of Bunnings). So I have decided to take the day off too after a night of dancing in the town square.

I lie on the bed resting and can hear the cicadas threaded through with birdsong. There is the occasional child’s voice or banging of doors, other than that, all seems quiet. Cicadas, birdsong and church bells. They are always ringing in the hours to remind you that time passes.

Some sounds are indicative of a landscape. In his seminal work on sonic environments, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (1993), Murray Schafer wrote about the acoustic elements which together form an environmental soundscape. Keynote sounds are those made in nature, like wind or water or insects such as the cicadas. These are often the background sounds, wind rustling in trees, water in the rivers. A ‘soundmark’ on the other hand is a term used to identify the signature sounds of a place without which it wouldn’t be the same. These soundmarks are unique to that community and Schafer argues that these need to be protected. 

I know I am in Lasalle because of the church bells, in Ulcinj it was the call to prayer. Listening is something we tend not to do so much. The air is full of noise, nowhere is really silent. During the day cicadas form the warp of the landscape, all other sounds weave in and out during summer. I could be in Australia on a hot February afternoon but for the bells, this particular soundmark of Lasalle. 

Soon after 8pm there will be the lead up chimes then a peal of bells announcing the end of the day. Gradually people drift into the town square for games of pétanque, a type of bowls played informally, followed in the night by fireworks and (more) dancing. It will be a weekend of revelry for tomorrow is the grand final of the FIFA world cup soccer match when France takes on Croatia. Again the town square will fill with people and a huge TV screen will be set up in the play area under the school buildings. To be in France, in Lasalle for all this! Ah quelle chance!

 The sound of cicadas is a constant summer sound. The elevated lines are birdsong.

The sound of cicadas is a constant summer sound. The elevated lines are birdsong.