Why do I want to participate?
I want to participate because it seems like a great opportunity to think and observe our surroundings and ourselves in new ways. I want to contribute to this collective effort.
One of the most intense sound experience I had in the past week was hearing the wind blowing in my ears as I was biking on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. Maybe the word hearing is a bit weak for the actual experience, as I felt the air burst into my ear canal and pound onto my eardrum as if I was attending a metal show.
One thing about the wind is that it’s quite immaterial, yet we get to feel it in many ways. We hear it whistle in our poorly insulated buildings. We see it tickling the autumn leaves and unhook them from tree branches. We feel it caressing our skin, cooling us during a warm summer day or messing with our hair. I’m not sure what the wind tastes like, but somehow the first thing I can think of is sand. And as for smell, I know that when the wind is going a certain direction the smell of the Molson Brewery is completely covering some neighbourhoods of Montreal. But that day I was biking across the Jacques-Cartier bridge, the wind didn’t smell like fermenting beer. I can’t really recall the smell, the only thing I know is that it felt just like that unpleasant sensation when you inhale water through your nose, but with air.
So, I’m feeling kind of shitty today; got turned down by a romantic interest, got a cold, feel numb, I guess it might be the best moment to do the challenge #4, the Soundtrack, and to choose a song that makes me feel really good to try to shake the dark thoughts away.
I choose a song from Beck I just recently discovered while listening to his entire catalog. The first time I heard the song, it gave me shivers and instant and intense pleasure just from hearing the first seconds. I’m not exactly sure what it is about the song that gives me this feeling, but somehow the slow pacing and the harmonies of the instruments and voices hit just the right spot and gives me a deep feeling of calm and relaxation.
I listen to the song from my computer, and then decide to listen to it from the stereo. A whole new layer of bass comes to life and it makes me shiver again. As I wash the dishes, I start to sing along, adding my voice to the harmony, and I can feel the song vibrating from inside my chest.
Heading out for a meeting, I put the headphones on and play that song on repeat. The song gives me a feeling of melancholia, which I quite like usually. It suits well the strange snowy day we are having in mid april. As I wait for the metro, I realize the song doesn’t really have the quality of cheering me up anymore, quite the opposite actually; I feel myself sliding into sorrow, tears pop up in my eyes.
After the meeting I go to a bazar, still with the headphones on. I go through the chaos of discarded stuff, trapped in my bubble of rumination and dark thoughts. I have to take the headphones off to talk to the owner and pay my purchase, and suddenly I feel liberated. I don’t put them back.
The emptiest place I go through on a regular basis is the hallway leading to my studio. It’s in a massive post-industrial building, where all kinds of companies have their office in loft spaces. The hallway is all concrete, dusty, painted with a dull peach colour and neon lit. Following the corridor seems like a long walk to nowhere, all the stories look the same. Sometimes, you can hear a glimpse of what’s happening on the other side of closed doors; sewing machines, african dance class, power tools.
I felt like bringing a little chaos into that empty space. Today, I brought a box full of ping pong balls. I opened the cardboard box, looked at the 200 white plastic balls inside, took a deep breath and in a large gesture, I threw the box’s content towards the high ceiling. The beauty of this suspended moment was only exceeded by the sound the balls made touching the ceiling, then the walls, then the floor and bouncing for a little while. Each sound emitted by a ball touching a surface was then echoed and delayed by the nature of the empty space, multiplied by 200 balls and by many bounces. The chaos was absolutely beautiful.
To hear small sounds is easier when you have silence around. Silence is never totally silent, except in outer space I think. I like quiet spaces myself, as it gives me more room to think. Sitting in my apartment, I hear the tic tac of an analog clock, drops of water falling in the sink, the fridge humming. Sometimes I hear sounds from cars outside, behind closed windows and winter’s soundproof curtain. And if I pay attention, I’ll even hear myself breathing. I’ll hear my breath between all the domestic objects’ breaths.
Contemplating the city as a living organism. To find its pulse, its heartbeat, one has to find its heart. As for my city, Montreal, I could tell you in a split second where its lung is: on a forested hill called Mont-Royal; I can see its streets as arteries; its head is downtown in offices where decisions are taken, and so on. The heart, for some reason, wasn’t as obvious to find.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and finally came to the conclusion that the heart of the city has to be its inhabitants. And now, where to go to capture the sound of the city’s pulse? And what exactly does a pulse sound like? It can be defined as “the rhythmical throbbing of arteries produced by the regular contractions of the heart.” After reading that, I knew exactly what the pulse of Montreal sounded like. I heard it, loud and clear, last spring with the student strike against the tuition hike. What started as a student movement rapidly became a social uprising and people took the streets, chanting and hitting pots and pans with wooden spoons. The voices united, and peoples hearts started to beat together.
A friend of mine captured that sound quite well:
This illustration is my visual interpretation of that soundscape.
Definition from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/pulse