lundi, février 26, 2007

Champs-Elysées and Microphone Shopping

So I got up in the morning and realized two things:

  1. This was the "go and travel" week for the UofC students, so they won't be around.
  2. Tommy was coming over from the IT dept of the college of UofC to help set up the new computer lab (new intel G5 iMacs!) on Thursday, so I would be working overtime during the latter half of the week.

This resulted in the decision to take the next few days off. I slept in a bit more, then put myself to the task of hunting for microphones in Paris. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, gearlust (the desire for particular items of technology) often takes the form of promissory notes you write to yourself, saying "As soon as I have [insert desirable object here], I'll finally complete that project." In other words, I could explain my failure to create substantial electronic music on my own in terms of a lack of resources/tools (rather than time, effort, creativity, talent, good looks, etc.), and the aspiration for achievement comes in the form of a lustful desire for the "gear" that will make it happen. Of course, these tools deliver quite a bit of satisfaction when we finally get our hands on them, but not quite as much as we had hoped. Despite buying the $500 sequencing software or hardware synthesizer, the music doesn't make itself. The solution? I need more gear.

Against my own will, I've sort of described Lacan's idea of the economy of desire (but in "gear" rather than sexual terms). Also, the dynamic I just outlined is a bit of a pathologized caricature. Of course buying gear isn't purely symbolic; it multiplies the possibilities available to me to reach my goal and in many cases eases the difficulty. Also, I understand very well that making musical output requires more than simple possession of gear. Nonetheless, the desire is there and it's potentially distracting.

So I decided to suppress my gearlust and focus on fully exploiting the potential of the gear I have available to me. Nonetheless, I needed a mic. I'm very much interested in recording sounds from the world around me and putting them to use in micro-house-ish tracks (lots of debt to musique concrète here), so I can't tolerate working with my laptop's built-in microphone. On the other hand, I don't have the budget for a high-end condenser mic, nor do I want to risk transporting something that delicate back to North America once I'm done here in France. The interim solution was to be an electret microphone; they're very compact and usually startlingly cheap. The most common application of an electret mic that you might have seen are the tiny clip-on "lavalier" mics, which clip to the lapels of newscasters, tour guides, etc. They tend to still be a bit noisier than their capacitor counterparts, but you can get a Sony electret mic for as little as 20€ and they're durable and smaller than your hand (i.e., discreet).

In the past, I had made attempts to find electret mics, but few electronics stores sold mics and those that did would usually carry a limited range of dynamic mics and maybe one or two condensers. After getting some advice from DJ as well as my boss here, I decided to spend the day bouncing between large media megastore locations, hoping to find what I needed. I decided to start with the FNAC on the Champs-Elysées, since I had just realized that I had yet to set foot in that area since I arrived in Paris. I suppose that shows my priorities, eh?

I checked the FNAC on the Champs-Elysées, but they only had one mic, and it was an overpriced low-end dynamic mic. Since it was already the early afternoon and I hadn't eaten, I decided to treat myself to lunch at an Alsatian restaurant called L'Alsace (natch). They had a reasonably-priced lunch prix-fixe that included 6 oysters as an appetizer and Alsatian choucroute for the main dish. All the food was great and surprisingly large, but the choucroute came with blood pudding, which I have to admit that I don't like at all. I've tried to like it, but the texture just turns me off.

I decided to try to get dessert and a tea service at La Durée's location on the Champs-Elysées (which is a rather lovely 19th-century metal-and-glass structure), but the lineup was nearly out the door. So I got back on the métro and tried the location at Madeleine. No success there, either. While I was there, I darted into the DARTY nearby to see if they had electret mics, but all they had were condensers and dynamics. The weather was nice, so I decided to walk down to Concorde and walk along rue Rivoli, looking for an available salon de thé. Alas, any place that looked decent was also packed to the rafters. I eventually made it to Châtelet and turned north in search of the massively-enormously-huge FNAC location in Les Halles. FINALLY, some success! I found a tiny lapel-clip electret microphone for 20€.

With that out of the way, I headed over to the Marais and looked for a tearoom that was still open and not too packed. I eventually found Le Loir dans la Théière (the doormouse in the teapot), which had passable tea and desserts. The place tried a bit too hard to do the "found furniture and whimsical DIY murals!" thing, which clashed with the prices they were charging and the attitude they gave the customers. But they were around the corner from the campus of one of the Parisian universities, so I suppose they have a captive audience.

Finally, I trudged home, made some dinner, and started working on blogging the past weekend. Yay, productivity!

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