The sacred sounds of Montreal, Canada

The sacred sounds of Montreal, Canada

Our Canadian contributors were busy during our Sacred Spaces callout, with a diverse range of sounds coming in from the creative city of Montreal, and an equally diverse range of reinterpretations.

Eric Boivin sent us several recordings from the churches of Montreal, the first of which comes from the Notre Dame Basilica, here reimagined by Mark Taylor in a piece called “Do Campanologists Dream of Electric Bells?”.

Mark tells us that the piece was created using Reaktor 5 and Kontakt 5 and hosted in Sonar X1, and says:

“All parts in this one, (except the electric piano solo), were created directly from fragments of the original field recording.

“Various snippets of the Quebec recording, (not just the bells, but other incidental noises as well) were loaded up into five granular samplers for extensive editing. The electric piano solo was performed using the Scarbee Mark 1 virtual instrument.”

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Our second Montreal recording is by M Qaro, and is from Paperman and Sons Jewish Funeral Home.

Angel Muniz tackled this recording, writing:

“I chose this recording, because it reminded me of listening to my father sing in church when I was a child. It brought back some fond memories.

“Also, I just liked the idea of working with vocals and really looked forward to making something totally different out of the source sound.

“Right away I knew I wanted to create something using only the recording as the source. I started using some granular synthesis techniques but I wasn’t satisfied with the results.

“So, I ended up taking a more simple approach by sampling a few small sections of the source sound and making rhythmic patterns with the voice.

“After a lot of experimenting, the result was a killer sub bass (created using a snippet of singing, which was pitched down, distorted, and EQ’d/Limited) accompanied by some odd panned vocal percussive bits(source sound pitched up and time stretched with tremolo and panning modulation).

“I also tried making a decent kick out of the source sound, turned out not too shabby. My DAW of choice was Reaper and I relied mostly on stock plugins and freeware. Again, no other sounds were used besides the source recording.”

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Eric Boivin’s second recording is bells ringing out the hour through waves of birdsong outside Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral, which has been reimagined by Sofia Botero.

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Awenda Park – a ‘super field recording’

Awenda Park – a ‘super field recording’

Here’s a ‘super field recording’ piece based on Awenda park in Ontario, Canada.

Rob Bertola sent in the original field recording, which is a straightforward and peaceful recording from inside the park, with gentle birdsong, the sounds of children playing and (I’m told) even some sounds of chipmunks scurrying around.

For the reimagined version, we dispensed with all notions of ‘artificial’ sound design and just tried to create a new place, a feasible soundscape, from the relatively subtle additions of field recordings from other locations.

Thus, in our ‘super field recording’, you can hear additions from locations in Sicily (waves on a beach in Scopello), Seville (birds in the gardens of the Alcazar Palace), Oxford (my local geese and seagulls) and South Africa (something from the Skilpadloof reserve).

It’s a potentially feasible new soundscape, but one that’s composed from various places around the world.

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Inside Union Station, Toronto

Inside Union Station, Toronto
Union Station, Toronto

Union Station, Toronto

Toronto, Canada: Today we’re visiting Union Station, Toronto, courtesy of local field recordist Rob Bertola – with the sound of travellers rushing to make their train and echoing announcements, you can really hear the reverberant interior of the great hall.

Regular Cities and Memory contributor Andy Lyon took this sound on, creating an urgent, buzzing electronica piece that captures some of the hectic surroundings of any major transport hub, whether it’s a train station, airport or bus station.

He writes of his piece, called the ‘Always A Rush remix’:

“I used Cataract to create a loop from the sample, I also created one in Polygon as a sound effect. I used a very simple kick drum pattern complemented by the Cataract loop and also a rhythmic loop which fitted really well.

“I’ve also added a bassline and used a number of delays on parts of the recording for the ambient-ish bit in the middle.”

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The magnified voice of nature

gallery_1lgPine Cove, Canada, and a peaceful recording of nature at a rural resort from Rob Bertola. UK-based sound artist Colin Ventura applied the Oblique Strategy card Listen to the quiet voice to this recording and came up with what he calls an ‘ultra field recording’, mixing in other natural sounds from around the world to create a new, hyper-natural soundscape and listening experience, as he explains:

“The idea was to magnify the sounds of nature, to make an ultra field recording, if you will, to get the sort of sound that it might be possible to get if all the clutter and congestion of human noise was removed.”

“To listen to the seemingly quiet voice of nature, and find that it does, in fact, roar.”

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Four versions of the same place

TOD_EMELAn unusual submission from Canadian artist Tod Emel, who, when we dealt him the cards Make what’s perfect more human and Water, was inspired to produce three different reimaginings of the same sound from his local public library in Saskatoon. Here he describes his process and the thinking behind each of the memory versions:

“For the purposes of the Cities and Memory: Oblique Strategies, I collected field recordings from the foyer of the Frances Morrison Library in downtown Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I found this liminal space intriguing, acting as a sort of buffer zone between the noisy world of the street outside and the quiet, contemplative setting of the library interior. As I sat recording, many people of different ages came through the space, leaving traces of their passing in the sounds of opening and closing doors; snippets of conversation mingled with the sound of passing vehicles and the peal of bells from a nearby church.”

“My randomly selected cards were: 1) Make what’s perfect more human, and 2) Water. As I set about to re-imagine the recordings, I felt that digitally altering and effecting the original recordings to invoke sounds of water was producing something more mechanistic, less human. The more I thought about it however, it seemed that i was producing something more ‘artificial,’ much in the sense that Oscar Wilde spoke of artifice. From this perspective, it seemed that as I introduced more artifice and restructuring in processing the recordings, I was marking this raw material as more human.”

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“Considering the human tendency to impose structure where none exists, with the track ‘Scribe’ I heavily altered a section of dialogue between two men speaking in a south-asian language, interrupted by a mother and young child entering the foyer from outside. I split the original recording into multiple tracks with different autofiltered frequencies, ‘wet’ reverb effects and choppy LFO settings to create a rhythmic structure and spatial ambience. The result suggests an angular movement through a space that upends our sense of being in a familiar space.”

Memory version ‘Scribe’:

 

“From ‘Scribe’ I worked reductively to realize the track ‘Open,’ sampling a short section of the exchange between mother and daughter. This sample was time stretched and heavily processed. I then used the sample as the basis for an improvised laptop performance that has a gritty lo-fi/broken analog synth aesthetic that is very much in line with the sort of work I’m currently producing. As an improvised piece, I was looking to respond to the fluid nature of performance suggested by the ‘water’ Oblique Strategy.”

Memory version ‘Open’:

 

“Finally, for ‘Humidex’ I moved away from the more artificial and dramatic sounds of the first two tracks and sampled loops of nearly silent sections from the original recordings. These loops were slowed and filtered to smooth the sounds. The various length loops were then layered and arranged much like a round, rendered as a short, flowing minimal ambient piece.”

Memory version ‘Humidex’:

When five clocks chime at the same time

5 corners 2 (1500 x 1000)Geoff Edwards from Canada listened to our recent piece on CBC national radio, in which we lamented the lack of Canadian sounds on the map, and set out to rectify it, sending us this recording of the clock chiming at a place called Five Corners (for obvious reasons) in his home town of Chilliwack, BC. When tackling this one, the name Five Corners led directly to the idea of one set of bells for each corner, so I’ve layered five lots of the same bell sound on top of each other. Each sound is of a very slightly different length (ranging from approximately 0.02 to 0.1 seconds of difference from sound to sound), so they gradually drift out of phase from one another over the course of ten minutes. They begin in unison, and the gradual phasing is accompanied by the gradual application of some degenerative effects like low-pass filters and distortion on some sounds. The piece ends with the clocks finally, after that incredibly long wait, achieving resolution by chiming the hour dramatically.

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The sound of protest – Montreal, Canada

idle_nomore.jpeg.size.xxlarge.letterboxMichael Nardone from Montreal, Canada, sent us a selection of his sounds from protests in his home city, including this one from the casserole marches during the Quebec student strike, in May 2012. This sound was taken on by the Random Order Collective, who are a collective of four artists based in Germany, the UK and the USA whose practices expand from sculpture, film, performance into new technologies and immersive environments. They’ve collaborated across countries to produce the final mix you hear here – and they’ll also be guesting on our forthcoming Hamburg project.

Have a listen to what happens when you take the sound of political protest and make music out of it!

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Inside the Tour de Levi, Montreal

Inside the Tour de Levi, Montreal

1A guest sound today from long-time contributor Dan Tapper, who’s sent through a recording and remix from the Tour de Levi in Montreal, Canada which was created for a multi-channel performance as part of the Sound Travels Intensive run by NAISA. Dan was kind enough to write a really interesting note about the sounds, so I’ll let him describe them in his own words:

This piece is composed from recordings of an old water tower located in Montreal called Tour de Levi. I was able to gain access and record using a combination of contact and binaural microphones. The water tower itself was very dusty but
produced incredible resonant sounds. These are focused on in the first part of the composition. I played the tower by banging, scraping and investigating as many ways as I could to create sound.

The acoustic sound inside the tower was very noisy as a loud industrial air conditioning system dominates the space. Outside the tower, however, there is an amazing sonic and visual panorama – a 360 degree view of the city. I was able to
hear swallows alongside an abseiling drill being taken by the Montreal fire department.

The field recording presented incorporates recordings taken from both these spaces, the interior of the water tower and the exterior.

The composition further explores the water tower in three distinct sections:

The first: Looks at the low frequency resonances of the water tower, creating deep drone and transient material.
The second: Investigates the exterior sounds of the tower, looking at the sounds of birdcall and how variations in repetition can create a perceived soundscape. This section is later combined with the sounds of the fire crew.
The third: Creates a hybrid between real and imagined space, incorporating sounds of other resonant objects – a set of saucepans from my kitchen – with the water tower’s interior.

The presented composition is a slightly reworked version for stereo. It is highly recommended that the piece is listened to on headphones or good quality monitor speakers as the low frequency material featured in several of the sections is too low for laptop/computer speakers to effectively reproduce.

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