Sounds from the Underground: A City Unnoticed
What kind of soundwalking interactions to explore in Montreal during the long cold winter of 2013? Sounds from the Underground! In February of 2013, I asked several undergraduate students of sound courses in the Communication Studies program at Concordia University to go into Montreal’s underground city and record soundwalks through different parts of the complex. This is what I asked them to do:
Do four soundwalks, each walk being between 45 mins and one hour, in the underground city. You can repeat the same route at different times, or choose different routes each time. At least two of the walks should link with the CCA. You can find maps of the underground city online to guide your plans. I would like you to record the walk, listen back to the recording and write a descriptive summary about each walk (about one page or 350 words each time), and select a short excerpt (less than 90 secs) from each walk that is of particular sonic interest. Your summary should describe the route that you took, for future reference (or you could draw it on the underground city map if you wanted). Make sure that when you are doing the recording, you monitor on headphones and avoid excessive wind and clothing noise.
This method follows some important tenets of our research: firstly, the repetition of soundwalks through time, seeking a variety of recording perspectives and experiences of similar places, within each person’s practice as well as that of the group as a whole. Descriptive writing is used as a means of reflecting on each experience and situating it in relation to the others. Selecting sounds of sonic interest unearths recurrent themes and provides short samples of the underground ambiances for listening. What follows is a report written by the leader of our merry underground recording band, Natalie Arslanyan. Thanks to recordists Maximilien Bianchi, Kaeleigh d’Ermo, Mallika Guhan, Jacob Stanescu, Luciana Trespalacios, Nadia Volkova, and Alexandrina Wilkinson.
Sounds from the Underground: A City Unnoticed
Busy traffic, pedestrians crossing the street, car horns, and ambulance sirens – these are sounds often associated with describing city soundscapes, or what a city sounds like. Montreal, in particular, is known for the sounds of its street buskers, cyclists darting by, conversations in French, cobblestone roads, and church bells echoing off buildings in the Old Port. Like most places, these characteristics describe the city as it would be perceived from the ground-up; however, many disregard a significant and noteworthy area of Montreal, one which tends to go unnoticed – the Underground City.
Montreal’s Underground City is a discrete and concealed space. Located below the ground, it ranges from areas surrounding Guy-Concordia metro station, eastwards towards Beaudry, southwards into metro Champ-de-Mars, and westwards towards Lucien-L’Allier metro. For many, it represents a shopping centre, a link between surrounding businesses and metro stations, a place for entertainment, or an escape from Montreal’s harsh winter weather. Regardless, the various activities and sounds that occur beneath the streets of Montreal deserve great attention and exploration.
In an attempt to explore the Underground City, Prof. McCartney asked eight undergraduate sound students from Communication Studies at Concordia University to embark on several soundwalks throughout the underground, and to audio record the walks. During these soundwalks, the students stayed mainly within the underground space, later emerging onto city streets, and linking to the CCA, or Canadian Centre for Architecture. Their findings suggest that as in any other urban areas, recurrent sonic themes emerge and ultimately create a soundscape for the Underground City. The Underground City is also noted for its differences in ambiance and tone between different sections of the complex. The underground in all its vastness has the ability to guide individuals into unfamiliar places, leading to unpredictable situations and feelings of isolation and confusion. Finally, the students found a notable difference in ambiance between Montreal streets and the area of the CCA.
There are many distinct and recurring sounds that emerge from the Underground City, including those produced from metro stations and trains, escalators and ventilation systems, the presence of music, activity within food courts, and fountain sounds. Significant differences in ambiance were found between metro stations, the underground mall, and the streets above ground. One student speaks specifically about the change in soundscape from Les Cours de Mont-Royal, a shopping centre within the underground complex, to the Peel metro station, where “[t]he music faded to be replaced by a faint mechanical drone, and the beeping of Opus cards came into the foreground”. In another situation, a distinction can be found between the “beeps, bustle, and hum of the Metro compared to the quieter boutiques that line the walls of Montreal’s Underground City”. Differences in soundscape can also be affected by the time of the day. Upon arriving to the McGill metro station at approximately 9:30 pm, one student felt a calmness and sense of dead-space within her surroundings. Had she entered the same station at 8:30 am the next morning during rush hour, she may have had an experience much different from her own.
One of the most notable and recurrent sounds throughout the Underground City is that of escalators and ventilation systems. The “overpowering drone” produced by both systems creates a shifting omnipresent hum throughout the underground, leading them to become unnoticed and less distinct among people walking by (https://soundcloud.com/nataliearslanyan/underground-city-escalators). As one student noted, “[i]t seems as though these are the baseline of the Underground City. They are everywhere and they colour the sonic landscape throughout”.
The clicking of shoes and high heels on the cold, tiled floors of the underground city is another distinct sound, and appears much more in the foreground in quieter areas of the mall (https://soundcloud.com/nataliearslanyan/footsteps-underground; https://soundcloud.com/nataliearslanyan/underground-ambiance). The presence of music is also a recurrent theme of the underground. Music is heard through an intercom that is played throughout the entire complex, as well as in individual stores and in different shopping centres. The amount of music heard becomes an overwhelming experience, as “different snippets of top 40 songs coming at you from different directions; there is barely any rest,” (https://soundcloud.com/nataliearslanyan/music-1). It is also not uncommon to see shoppers plug into their mp3 players and listen to their music through headphones. This form of music listening isolates the individual from the rest of their surroundings, just as the Underground City seems isolated and unknown from the streets above.
Some of the most interesting sounds were found in food courts: “the banging of pots, sizzling of fires, the sound of cash registers, all supported by continuous chatter…there seemed to be a sense of layering, almost like a musical composition,” (https://soundcloud.com/nataliearslanyan/underground-food-court). There seemed to be an increase in sound activity and attention drawn to food courts in comparison to other parts of the underground. As one student explains, “the ambiance of the food court was especially fun because I could listen to the jazzy soundtrack coming out of the speakers and do close-ups of restaurant machines that were still working.” Sounds produced from food courts are influenced by their location within the underground complex and the people occupying the food courts. For example, there is a significant difference in ambiance between the food court located in the Eaton Centre, characterized as chaotic with the presence of children and families, and the food court in Cours de Montréal, where business people are more likely to be found. The differences in volume and textures of sound vary between food courts throughout the underground complex; however, it seems that food courts are perceived as a central area for people to meet, relax, and take a break from their daily activities. The placement of a large water fountain in the middle of the Place Desjardins food court, for example, provides an additional sense of relaxation and simultaneously produces a sonically interesting, rhythmically and timbrally variable sound to the overall soundscape (https://soundcloud.com/nataliearslanyan/water-fountain).
Aboveground, the downtown Saint-Laurent area, filled with students, clubs, and bars, will sound considerably different from Montreal’s Old Port, with its large stone buildings, lesser evening activity and circuitous routes for traffic. This same concept of neighbourhood sound character can be applied to the underground complex, especially when considering “upper-class” and “middle-class” areas. As one student notes, “[d]oes something sound rich or poor? Probably not, but moving from the busy underbelly of the city to the upper reaches where movement is not done en-masse, things get quieter.” (Luciana – walking underground) The Eaton Centre is observed as ever-changing and chaotic, as opposed to Place Montreal Trust as being busy, yet relaxed. High-end sections, such as the Queen Elizabeth hotel and Les Cours Mont-Royal, are expressed as containing less “noise”. As one recordist notes, noise can be considered as “a number of sounds found to be unwanted/undesirable”, or sounds that create clutter within an environment. There is a contrast between high-end and low-end areas, in terms of how unwanted sounds, or “noise”, can be masked with other sounds. Another student indicates the projection of jazz music in the Place d’Armes metro station tunnel towards the Palais de Congres to overpower sounds of escalators and fluorescent lights. It is interesting to note how ambiance and tone within the Underground City can change from one area to another, regardless of all these sections residing under one roof.
The Underground City is capable of leading individuals unfamiliar with the area into unpredictable and interesting situations. One student unexpectedly found herself in the middle of a live concert, as she walked from the tunnel between Lucien L’Allier Metro and the Bell Centre around 10:00 pm on a Monday night. Although she anticipated it to be a quiet evening, she almost immediately felt that something was different, as she started “hearing the sub bass of what sounded like a dance track of some kind.” Without knowing, the student had walked into a Lady Gaga concert and did not realize until exiting the Bell Centre and seeing a poster advertising the concert.
Several soundwalk recordists encountered buskers within the Underground City. One recordist found a man busking with a guitar, cardboard boat, fishing pole, and a sign reading “fishing for change”. The Saint Henri metro station is noted as usually being filled with buskers. On one particular soundwalk, a student recorded the sound of three buskers playing a cover of a Pink Floyd song, accompanied by several homeless people whistling, talking, and clapping at Place-des-Arts metro. Another student notes her experience with a busker, as he looked at her suspiciously the closer she approached him, stopped singing for a moment, then continued after he felt she was at a far enough distance (). The information gathered from these students suggests that the presence of buskers is a distinctive feature of the Underground City, and that recordists cannot automatically assume that it is ok to record musicians playing in a public place, since the music is the source of their income.
Each recordist expanded their soundwalks to include Montreal streets, ranging from the Square-Victoria area, to Lucien L’Allier, to Guy-Concordia metro. In addition to busy roads and side streets, the Canadian Centre for Architecture was also incorporated into many of the recordings. The CCA is located between Boulevard Rene-Levesque and Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, two exceptionally large and busy streets in downtown Montreal.
Despite being placed within close proximity to highway 720, there is a significant change in soundscape upon entering the gates leading to the museum’s courtyard. There is also a deepening sense of hollowness and emptiness, as the sounds of bustling traffic lose much of their omnipresence. The soundscape is quiet and calm and for a moment, you can hear the sound of birds chirping. Suddenly, the sound of a siren appears – except there is a notable distinction between this siren and another siren heard through regular traffic. The quiet and desolate environment of the courtyard adds an eerie and isolated aesthetic to the siren, as its sound pierces through the city and bounces off the stonewalls of the CCA. Upon exiting the CCA gates, sounds of the city emerge once again – the turbulence of cars and trucks whisking down the highway, cyclists whizzing by, and the previously-heard sound of the siren now much less clear and distinct. It is amazing how architecture can affect the perception of sounds within a city. What would the Underground City sound like without escalators or ventilation systems? How would this change the overall soundscape of the Underground City?
Explorations of the Underground City present an array of observations and questions. Many of the soundwalk recordists noted their unfamiliarity with the world underground and experiencing the underground in the same way a tourist would, exploring it as unfamiliar territory. Some were familiar with specific underground spaces, such as areas around Bonaventure and McGill metro. One recordist explained how his perspective of experiencing the underground mall shifted from being less of an explorer and more of a listener, which allowed him to enjoy his time uncovering other mysteries of the Underground City. Regardless of the numerous strange looks received or having shoppers misread the use of a microphone as an interview opportunity, many of the sounds uncovered from the underground present an inconspicuous and unique dimension of Montreal, demonstrating yet another hidden treasure beneath Montreal’s surface.
Link to “Sounds from the Underground” SoundCloud webpage:
Excerpted from a soundwalk along the northern part of the High Line elevated linear park in lower Manhattan, on a cold winter day. This is from part of the walk far enough away from street corners and construction sites for those loud sound sources to permeate the ambience without completely saturating. Occasional sniffles and metallic footsteps, wind buffeting. Windmilling helicopter waves bouncing between high rises. I stop and sit quietly on a bench, face to the sun, eyes closed, close to the sign you see here. I hear a dense tapestry, layer upon layer of occasional passing voices, near and far construction sites, road and air traffic, distant calls and clangs going deep into the sound field. A few brave birds hopping in the shrubberies but not singing this afternoon. Rising again to move closer to the road, then northward.
One long take, recorded using binaural microphones, best with headphone listening. No processing, except short fades at beginning and end.
Recording and montage by Andra McCartney.
“Soundwalking Interactions.” Presentation, installation and dance performance with sound artist Andra McCartney, interactive artist Don Sinclair, choreographer Susan Lee, dancers Tracey Norman, Bee Pallomina, Shannon Roberts, and Jesse Dell. Dance Dramaturgy: Catalyst, Perspective and Memory, York University, June 23, 2011.
All members of the group began by going on a soundwalk together in a Toronto park. Andra McCartney began by leading, but then held back in order to feel which direction the group tended at different moments. She then encouraged others to take over leadership. This shift in leadership and direction created different feelings of ﬂocking that were later referenced in the improvisatory structure of the dance. The group halted part way through the walk to exchange listening ideas, then continued. The next day, the recorded soundwalk was posted online for download. The group gathered and listened to the whole soundwalk, pausing after every ten minutes to discuss what was heard. On the basis of this discussion, sound excerpts were edited for the dancers to use in the installation. After the ﬁrst rehearsal, the choreographer asked for more sounds to be generated, based on the desires of the dancers and the needs of the choreography. Lee designed a choreographic structure that gave room for improvisation in gesture and movement within scored moments of 45 seconds to 1 minute in length, creating a piece in ﬁve gestural sections that lasted around 16 minutes. Movements were linked with the experience of the soundwalk and the attributes of the sounds. In the space of the installation, dancers walked behind each other, sometimes embracing each other, leading and following, circling and pausing, sometimes listening with eyes closed, articulating the space and the sounds through staccato gestures and changes in tempo, moving closer to each other and farther apart; all of these motions translated into swirling colours and shapes on the projection. The installation relies on a bodily exploration of acoustic possibilities within a circumscribed space. The exercise also reveals relationships between bodily movements and a sense of place. For instance, stillness could result in silence, as well as the absence of visual traces on the screen, or alternatively it could result in loud sound that would be attenuated by movement. Each case provided different kinds of possibilities for bodily articulation of the space in sound. Movements inside a given place reveal its shape and boundaries. Participants explore the space, activating each sound voluntarily or by accident, returning to the most appealing, disturbing or evocative sounds and mixing them. Movements become progressively more conﬁdent, musical, gestural. Thus the choreography develops into defined phrases and trajectories through the audible memories of the walk, the circumscribed space of the installation and its various sonic configurations.
The text in this posting is developed out of a former analysis of this piece in the CJC.
Paquette, David and Andra McCartney. “Soundwalking and the bodily exploration of places.” Canadian Journal of Communication, 37 (1), 2012: 135-145.
a sound installation in Chicago in 2002, and a
St. Charles streetcar in New Orleans, 2012.
“I love the sounds of streetcars. I miss them in Chicago. It’s nice to visit Toronto and see and hear them again. Kenosha is the closest thing to that these days. New Orleans’ St. Charles line makes the best music, though.”
So wrote a listener in Chicago, as part of the Re-Synthesis show in 2001-2 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in response to a soundwalk recording of my neighbourhood street in Toronto, including the sound of the St. Clair streetcar. It made me wonder what the St. Charles streetcar in New Orleans sounds like?
Finally in the fall of 2012, over a decade later, a music conference at Tulane University provides an opportunity to find out. At this point, with the streetcar lines under construction downtown near the hotels, passengers take a bus out to meet the streetcar where the line begins.
“Does this bus meet up with the streetcar to Tulane?” I ask the driver. At the next stop, a lady gets on who works at the University and offers to help me find the conference site, the first of many examples of warm New Orleans hospitality during that visit.
The streetcar standing at the end of the line is a beautifully maintained 1920s vintage car, with varnished hardwood seats and a driver who stands at the front. The car pulses rhythmically. I can’t tell how that sound is produced, but it is deep, direct, constantly throbbing; then a gear is engaged and the car thrums forward into movement, accompanied by a bell. Each action: bell ringing, gear changing, stopping, starting, is the result of a physical movement by a standing, leaning, pushing driver. It is beautiful music, I agree with that earlier listener.
And I want to bring that sound into conversation with the initial Toronto St. Clair streetcar recording made as I walked away up the street, as well as with a harmonized sequence produced by slowing down a closeup recording of the St. Clair streetcar turning sharply (a piercing, shrieking sound). Slowed down by octaves and juxtaposed, it reveals complex harmonics that form an eerie melody in slower time, and creates a shifting sparkling field of metallic scintillations. This seems a lively counterpoint to the throbbing rhythms, clackings and surges of the St. Charles car, and a musical way to respond to the comment of that listener back in 2002 (a kind of gleaning, as in the responsive documentary of Agnes Varda (2001), who is an inspiration about creative ways to respond to audiences).
The St. Charles line in New Orleans is the longest continuously-running streetcar line in North America, beginning as a horse-drawn line, then motorized and electrified. The cars used now were built in 1923-25. It only stopped for Hurricane Katrina, but the vintage cars survived that storm better than replicas did, and are now back on track. The model of streetcar that I recorded in Toronto in 1999 was slated to be taken out of service a few years later.
McCartney, Andra. Homing Ears (Soundwalk to home). For CD, headphones, book and armchair. Re-Synthesis. Betty Rymer Gallery, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Dec. 2001- Jan. 2002.
Varda, Agnès. The Gleaners and I; and The Gleaners and I, Two years later. Zeitgeist DVD. 2001.
Soundwalks at metro de la Concorde.
Part of the Audioparc event at Galerie Verticale in Laval, commissioned by Magali Babin.
I want to propose the notion of “balade sonore” as French translation for the English term soundwalk. Instead of “marche sonore” which seems a bit too military, or promenade, which evokes the idea of walking to show oneself, or even “dérive” in which like the Situationists one might seek to be completely lost or disoriented, I like the idea of “balader” … to do a “balade” –which has the same root in French as the word for song. A balade is also a way of slowing down. A balade is a bit vague. Not exactly lost, but not at all rushed. Slow, attentive, alert to all sounds, with all senses, all sensations.
A balade sonore or soundwalk is a form of creation and method of research that utilizes listening and sometimes recording as a way to explore a place on foot. Each soundwalk can be considered in a musical fashion, as a mnemonic tool, or as a source of information about the environment. People’s listening experiences can become the point of departure for conversations that bring together the epistemological, aesthetic and ethical dimensions of the places where sounds are found, and these same dimensions can be found in the detailed reflections of participants in soundwalks, in listening sessions afterwards, and in reaction to artworks which come from soundwalks.
There are many ways to listen. One can listen like a musician, thinking of the melodies, harmonies and rhythms of the sonic environment. One can create a musical piece out of the sounds heard. One can listen sensually, like a poet, linking senses — the touch of sound, the noises of images, the taste of a location. One can listen to sounds politically, thinking of which sounds mask others, which are more present, which dominate. Because we walk in a group, we can reflect on the internal dynamics of that structure. What can one hear of the group> Does this structure give our listening a certain dynamic or constrain it? One can listen historically to the place, thinking of the history of a certain place or culture, one can imagine its history, the people who lived there before, the sounds that are now gone, changed, or amplified. It is also possible to create imaginary bridges between different sounds, sonic resemblances that connect spaces separated in time and space, one place calling to another, echoing, producing an imaginary place in between that has characteristics of each. And one can listen as if listening to a lover. One can reserve a certain sort of attention, a certain kind of intent listening towards the sonic environment, which resembles the kind of listening that we do in the company of someone we love. With the Soundwalking Interactions project, we wish to concentrate our attention on the participants of soundwalks, and wish to talk to them about their different intentions and their specific responses to the sonic environment, their approaches to listening while moving through places.
I walked in the area around Metro de la Concorde in Laval, several times between June and September 2012. Here are some comments on what I heard during those walks.
La Route Verte.
Everyone loves the colour green. Close to the metro, there is a “route verte”, a cycling path that is also accessible to pedestrians. But I ask myself here, what does green signify in this context? A narrow asphalt laneway between barriers, cloistered between railway and parking lots, barriers of 2 to 3 metres in height, made of plastic and steel. Perhaps it is a green route just because of its very existence, a way that permits cyclists to quickly go from one place to another. But for pedestrians, who gain access only at street corners, there is no way out for long stretches, everything is closed off. Is this a green experience?
Close to here, I stand under large electrical structures while late-summer insects sing in the weeds underneath. Many insects, signalling the end of summer and beginning of school. Buzzing like electricity.
I think about the paths and what they might mean. There are ornamental paths that go nowhere, aesthetic paths of reddish stone that lead to a fence blocking the route or go round in circles. Will l listen differently on those paths? (self-consciously perhaps) Will my listening be more open or more linear, in between the lines? On escalators, rising and falling next to each other in the metro, is my listening directed by the rhythms felt underfoot?
There are different modes of transport integrated here: train, subway, buses, cars, pedestrians, cyclists. Which are most important in the design of the metro? Who uses this place at what times? According to what I found, after the 9 am rush finishes, it is cyclists who pass through most in the morning, around the metro itself. A bit further off, the sound of traffic is constant. There is little movement in the parking area after rush hour. Pedestrians walk from one entrance to another, but few seem to frequent the pleasant sitting space with wooden walkways and benches surrounded by tall grasses and subway vents, near the metro door.
A string of pearls
I think of our soundwalk near the Metro as like a string of pearls, where each sonic moment is one pearl on the string. Moments of listening stillness, moments of group listening-walking, moments where we stand and comment on what we have heard. Each moment has a distinct ambience, made of the movements of the group, the sounds of the environment, other sensations, and the effects of the commentary. The de la Concorde soundwalk contained many of these pearls, each a few minutes long, held together by listening. Walkers spoke of the eerie quietness of the residential area nearby, the lack of pedestrians on the street compared with more downtown locations. Walkers also remarked on the long length of the blocks, made more on car scale than on pedestrian. The most ubiquitous sound on the soundwalk was that of cars (comme toujours!) Close to the metro, people remarked on the strange and other-worldly breathing and creaking noises made by the subway vents, sounds that we heard as well in the installation of Jen Reimer and Max Stein.
The soundwalk was followed by a different soundwalk led by Eric Leonardson of Chicago, focused through interaction with stones picked up at the site, on the hill next to a vent (and replaced there afterwards). The group moved from one part of the site to another, clicking the stones to activate the architecture acoustically, at times conducted by Leonardson who asked different parts of the group to play to each other.
Ecomusicologies 2012 at Tulane University in New Orleans brought together scholars working across the fields of ethnomusicology, musicology and music theory, in a vibrant working environment. Some participants were precluded from attending because of Hurricane Sandy, still tracking the northeast US as the meeting took place. Virtual presentations were included in the program to open up participation to people who were not able to come or did not want to make the trip for environmental reasons. Papers included work on sustainability of instrument materials; inspiration from the environment in musics of Japan, Mongolia, Brazil, Canada and the United States; orchestrating nature in film; and environmental themes in the compositions of John Luther Adams, Maggi Payne, Laurie Spiegel, Luc Ferrari, David Tudor, Carl Ruggles, and Hildegard Westerkamp. A soundwalk of the immediate surroundings of the meeting was presented by Tyler Kinnear. “Birding,” an eco-improvisational performance by ~spin~ — James Harley (University of Guelph), computer, and Ellen Waterman (Memorial University of Newfoundland), amplified flutes, ended the meeting. Sessions devoted to ecomusicology also took place at the Society for Ethnomusicology international meeting which immediately followed Ecomusicologies 2012, including an innovative panel in which there were no formal papers but instead seven short sound pieces, each accompanied by a still image, each exploring a different aspect of ecomusicology. There was a still field recording, a soundwalk, a performance of a Bach violin partita, musical pieces that incorporated field recordings with various amounts of processing, and a song about an environmental issue. After each piece was played, the audience engaged in open discussion for seven minutes followed by prompted discussion for another seven. This format encouraged discussion about how we were listening to these pieces, in that particular room with its difficult acoustics, along with images that set up associations with other senses, and with various memories and feelings, and in relation to our existing knowledge and experience with music and sound. The Ecomusicologies interest group of the Society for Ethnomusicology created a thought-provoking series of events that brought together new work across disciplines to pay attention to environmental questions.
At the Ambiances in Action conference, we decided to do two simultaneous soundwalks. In the past, walkers had sometimes been frustrated by Andra’s slow pace, which some described as ‘melancholic’! So we decided to offer two walks, one more slowly moving, and one at a faster pace. Andra’s slowly moving group went through back alleys to the university. David’s faster moving group went through the tunnel and down to the highway. Both returned for a discussion at the CCA, where we told each other where we had been and what we had heard, and then talked about common interests. Many of the participants already include walking in their creative practice, so there were many points of common interest.
Here are two videos, from the same moment of the walk, experienced by each group:
Lors de la conférence Ambiances en actes, nous avons décidé de faire deux marches sonores simultanées. Lors de marches antérieures, certains participants avaient mentionné qu’ils avaient été gênés par la lenteur du rythme de marche d’Andra, allant même jusqu’à le qualifier de mélancholique! Nous avons alors proposé deux maches, une plus lente et une plus rapide. Alors que le groupe d’Andra s’est rendu jusqu’à l’université Concordia par les ruelles, le groupe de David, plus rapide, a traversé l’autouroute et est revenu par le tunnel de la rue du Fort. Nos deux groupes cesont ensuite rejoints pour une discussion au CCA. Plusieurs participants avaient déjà inclus dans leur démarche créative l’utilisation de la marche, ce qui a nourri grandement la discussion.
Voici deux vidéos se déroulant au même moment, selon la perspective de chaque groupe:
Le jeudi 20 septembre 2012, le groupe La marche sonore comme processus d’interaction a pris part au 2e Congrès International sur les Ambiances qui avait lieu au Centre Canadian d’Architecture. Andra McCartney et moi-même avons organisé et mené deux marches sonores simultanées, accompagnés d’une douzaine de participants.
Nous avons marché en deux groupes distincts qui nous ont permis d’explorer une partie du centre-ville de Montréal durant environ 45 minutes. Nous nous sommes arrêtés à deux reprises pour de courtes discussions in situ durant lesquelles nous avons abordé notamment la question de l’écoute dans une situation de tourisme ou de premier contact avec le milieu, nous avons tenté de reconnaitre l’identité sonore de Montréal et les différentes séquences créées par notre mouvement à travers la ville ainsi que par les différentes configurations architecturales. Nous avons traversé des espaces sonores très distincts, des ruelles tranquilles à la rue Ste-Catherine, du tunnel de la rue du Fort jusqu’au parc et aux jardins communautaires. Le groupe mené par Andra a emprunté quelques ruelles du centre-ville et a aussi visité des espaces intérieurs autour du campus de l’Université Concordia.
Après nous être retrouvés au CCA, nous avons eu une longue et fructueuse discussion pendant laquelle nous avons abordé les thèmes de la pollution sonore, des sonorités de chaque saison montréalaise ainsi que du rapport entre la qualité d’écoute et le sentiment d’insécurité. Entourés par la ville, notre attention alternait entre les bruits de la ville et du ciel, sirènes, trafic, le bruit du vent dans les feuilles d’automnes, avions qui passent, et les commentaires des participants. Ceux-ci nous ont révélé une écoute très détaillée, critique, réflexive, et ouverte à des sonorités parfois inconnues. Une certaine forme de confiance s’est très rapidement établie dans le groupe, ce qui créé une dynamique communicationnelle fort intéressante.
Le montage audiovisuel met en commun les deux enregistrements de nos marches simultanées, ainsi que de courts extraits des discussions que nous avons menées durant et après les marches sonores.
Aujourd’hui le vent siffle dans les feuilles d’automne.
Un grande érable tel une cathédrale de hautes feuilles,
Pins, épicéas, cèdres, cérises, pommes, chênes, peupliers,
tous ensembles font des habitations protégés pour les oiseaux
qui baladent dans les branches.
Pigeons, corneilles, mésanges, hirondelles,
rossignols, grives, bruants donnent vivement leurs voix
Et pour les passants, les plaisirs de
tous petits jardins insérés entre clôtures et rues,
faits avec amour par les résidents dans les espaces partagés
et les dernières fleurs qui perdurent en fin de saison.
Today the leaves whisper in the autumn breezes.
A huge maple makes a cathedral of trembling leaves overhead.
Pines, spruce, cedars, cherries, apples, oaks, poplars
make protected homes for the birds
singing and flying through their branches.
Pigeons, crows, chickadees, swallows,
robins, thrushes, sparrows freely give their voices
to the sky.
And for the passerby, there is the pleasure
of tiny gardens nestled between fence and road,
made with love by residents in shared space,
with flowers persisting to end of season.