April 15 2022
Led by Chantal Dumas and Magali Babin of Villeray Acoustique, the soundwalk began at Casa d’Italia. It was a sunny spring day, extremely windy, and the streets of Villeray were bustling with the morning activity of Good Friday. Inspired by the sound life of the neighborhood, the human relations, and the environment which is a mix of animal and plant life in an urban area, Villeray Acoustique offered us a chance to experience a collective listening experience to enrich interactions with each other and this area of the city.
Our first stop was in front of the Ste-Cécile church, patron saint of musicians, near a school, daycare centers and numerous businesses. Place de Castelnau is at the heart of this neighborhood. In the summer season, the human traffic dominates the vehicular traffic, making it possible to distinguish fine sounds such as the voices coming from the cafés, the placottoirs or the church square. We were asked to listen for the quietest sound, and the loudest. We were reminded how this atmosphere is reminiscent of small village squares. However, during the early spring months, the soundscape is dominated by the mix of Easter activity, the vehicular traffic, and the cleaning machines which dominate the streets of the city at this time of year.
We then moved on to one of Montreal’s hidden yet bustling ruelle vertes, along Drolet St. These Montreal alleyways hold the hidden secrete to the city, where the ambiance expresses a sense of identity for those who occupy it. Kids play in these alleyways and sounds of household life can be heard throughout. Kids playing street hockey, parents preparing brunch, the sound of planes passing overhead. Entering the alley marks a change in atmosphere, moving from the bustling of the streets to the homelife of a neighborhood space. We were asked to listen to the how the sounds interact and respond to each other. The acoustics are far more subtle as the surroundings change from open concrete to wood and green landscaping. In the summer, the doors, and windows open and reveal the sounds of domestic dwellings.
We continued to make our way up through this wonderful alley, the wind gusting overhead. Kids ran around us and neighbors smiled and talked with us. We made our way up to Parc Saint-Vincent-Ferrier. Immediately upon exiting the alleyway and entering on Jarry street, we were encapsulated in the bustling street sounds. We made our way around Paroisse Saint-Vincent-Ferrier, a now closed church. The city used to be filled with the sound of church bells.
We entered the park. A beautiful balance of sounds emanates from the park. Flanked on all sides by the church and the houses of the neighborhood, an enveloping reverberation exists. Planes storm overhead, every 5-10 minutes. The cries of children and the voices of adults mix with the rustling of the wind and the chirping of birds. We were asked to look for one sound masking another.
Our walk ended at this location, and we were asked to think of a sound which stood out to us. We then engaged in a soothing exercise. Magali and Chantal asked us to take a seat on the benches and close our eyes. Which felt like 1 minute, but was probably closer to 10, they walked around our group ringing a meditation bell and hitting a singing bowl. These reverberated throughout the park and into our minds.
Thank you to Chantal Dumas and Magali Babin for this enlightening and soothing experience. We encourage you to check out Villeray Acoustique’s website to learn more and to take a soundwalk with them in the future: https://mtlacoustique.com/
The Online Panel
After this amazing soundwalk we made our way to Patro Villeray on Cristoph Colomb for some pizza and our online panel. Moderated by Angus Tarnawsky, our international panel featured talks given by Gemma Thompson, Norman W. Long, and walk · listen · create.
Gemma Thompson began the discussion in which she presented some of her amazing work of using drawing and print to explore sound image and temporality. Her method includes recording sonic and sensory experience through drawing, drawing through the memory of a soundwalk. She begins this process by taking soundwalks, committing the sounds to memory, and trying to replicate them visually.
Sometimes this process involves drawing form memory, wearing a blindfold with headphones, and with a timer set to the same length as the soundwalk, she strides to remember distinct sounds and put them to paper. In other works she uses etchings on metal, where the memory of soundwalks, the repetitions of sounds, would be repeatedly etched onto the same metal canvas.
Our second present, Norman Long, focuses his practice on sound art production in the context of landscape. Providing us with an in-depth history of the Chicago landscape in which he works, Norman went on to discuss how his soundwalk practice involves the urban and botanical nature which he finds himself situated in. Often this involves the practice of gardening , work in city parks, and creating an urban environment fused with the natural. The result is a neighbourhood listening garden and park preservation in which people can connect with the natural history of Chicago.
Our last panel presenter was Geert Vermeire who presented his the exciting platform walk · listen · create. In collaboration with Andrew Stuck and Babak Fakhamzadeh, walk · listen · create is a platform which brings soundwalk artists from all over the globe together. It is a community practice, weaving people and places together. Through this initiative, they are able to catalogue and archive publications of soundwalk artists, providing a social media platform for walking artists to share their work, thoughts, pieces and events. Furthermore, walk · listen · create is an initiative which hosts many events, such as their Soundwalk September, happening ever since 2017. If you are interested in this initiative, we encourage you to check out their website and get involved: https://walklistencreate.org/