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IASPM Soundwalk

On Saturday, June 18, Andra McCartney led a forty-minute soundwalk in and around the McGill University campus, with a group of 20-30 participants.  The walk was part of IASPM Canada’s annual conference (Music and environment:  place, context, conjuncture) and took place on a beautiful, sunny day between 4:00 and 5:45PM, including a post-walk discussion with all of the walkers.  McCartney opened with a ten-minute talk in Tanna Schulich Hall in the Schulich School of Music (McGill University), where she discussed various listening strategies for the walk (being aware of the human voice, listening musically, historically, mnemonically, and evocatively), and three possibilities for the soundwalk.  Participants could follow McCartney and walk as a group; leave the group at any point; or do an entirely different walk from the start.   She also read a quote from an essay entitled, “In almost absolute silence”:  “I am listening to you as someone and something I do not know yet, on the basis of a freedom and an openness put aside for this moment…”

Our walk intersected with an anti-fracking demonstration near McGill’s Sherbrooke St. entrance.  Fracking (or Hydraulic fracturing) is the fluid-driven drilling process of increasing the extraction rates of oil and natural gas from deep rock formations.  Unfortunately it creates numerous health and environmental problems, including the contamination of fresh ground water reserves (i.e. our drinking water).  A group of twenty protestors arrived in Montreal, walking from Rimouski, QC (634 km), joined by others along the way, to protest gaz de schiste.  More information on ‘La Marche Moratoire’ can be found here: http://www.rimouskimontreal.net/

In the post-walk discussion, participants commented on the lack of birds throughout the walk, the way McGill’s campus has become more pedestrian-friendly, the numerous air conditioners and “air-handling” on the campus, the different campus activities that occur on weekends (e.g. less construction), the contrast between the campus and the city, and the “sonically (and architecturally) interesting” triangular courtyard behind the music building, filled with the sounds of musicians practicing and (more) air vents.  One participant mentioned a Portuguese poet who writes about sound and memory; another talked of using audio recorders on soundwalks; another participant discussed the return of the HVAC in Toronto after a major power out…

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