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Random thoughts from London and Paris

What I noticed about music and technology in London and Paris.

I just spent two weeks in London and Paris with no computer, phone, or MP3 player. I didn't want to bring a laptop lest I be tempted to work. I was scared to bring my iPhone because of possible horrendous roaming charges and I got three different answers from AT&T about whether Wi-Fi access would be free. (Memo to AT&T: please come up with a single answer and train your phone support people to give it.) I don't have a European-U.S. electrical adapter to recharge any of my gadgets anyway.

A mural on the wall of Tottenham Court Road station in the London Underground. Angela Rosoff

Even so, I couldn't switch my brain off the subject of music and technology entirely. So, a list:

Number of iPhones spotted: 1
Number of iPhone ads spotted: 2
Largest iPhone ad spotted: a translucent display overlaid on a circular glass building near the London Eye. It was probably 50 feet high by 100 feet wide.
Number of iPods spotted: 1 Shuffle (purple), plus about a dozen people with the telltale white earbuds.
Number of other MP3 players spotted: 0
Number of people listening to music on other types of phones: about 6
Number of subway musicians in London: 0
Number of subway musicians in Paris: 3
Best subway musician: the guy who played "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on the guitar for my daughter as we walked by.
Best music I'd never heard before: the Charles Feelgood remix of Billie Holiday's version of "All of Me," from a 2007 compilation called Billie Holiday: Remixed and Reimagined.
Best "why don't they do this at home?" moment: spotting a large numerical readout of the decibel level in a bar in Paris. Background: there's a battle going on in Seattle between condo-dwellers and clubs over noise levels. A decibel readout on the wall would resolve a lot of conflicts immediately--the cops could enter, immediately see how loud the noise was, and either leave or issue a ticket. In this club, ambient noise with a background jukebox topped out at about 75dB, just slightly above the level of normal conversation.
Best "glad to be American" moment: spending an arm and a leg on a cover charge for a jazz club in Paris, only to find that the musicians were no better than an average wedding jazz band in the states. (With the exception of the clarinet player, who smoked.)
Most obvious tourist-trap moment that still made me choke up: hearing the Amelie soundtrack emanating from the merry-go-round at the Plaza St. Pierre in Montmartre.