Lachine Canal National Historic Site

Podcasting

HTML Version of the Wave Adventure

SIDE 1

INTRO - Atwater Terrace

That sound… It could be a church bell…
No, it’s coming from somewhere else…
The Atwater Market clock tower.

Can you see me yet?
In the distance?
I won’t be long.

I’m on my way to meet you,
on the terrace
by the Canal,
behind the market.

I hear a bus,
the screech of truck breaks, car horns.
A bombardment of percussive sounds.
I compare their timbres.

I blend this cacophony,
with other, more resonant sounds.
I multiply the percussive sounds,
I intensify the resonance.

I’m a composer.
I’m creating a composition
inspired by the world around me.

I’m heading for the canal,
following the lampposts alongside the market.
They remind me of the masts of ships.
Of a time when
boats would sound three siren blasts
when the canal opened in the spring.

Three powerful sounds,
deep and loud.
Steam pouring from their smokestacks.

The factory sirens defined the day.
Start of shift in the morning,
break for lunch,
end of shift at 4 o’clock.

And on New Year’s,
the factories all
blared their sirens in unison.
These sounds are inspiring.

I’ve arrived.

I’m climbing the steps to the wooden deck.
Near the small building with the transparent roof.
On its left, there’s a series of sculptures.
Let’s meet at the first sculpture, the one with two pianos.

INTRO 1: - Lionel Groulx metro station

I pass through the turnstile
at the Lionel-Groulx metro station,
and head for the exit.

Then I step onto the escalator
and let it carry me up to the surface.

This is not the sound of a staircase;
it’s the sound of a lock.
That's where I’m going:
the Lachine Canal.

I start walking.
I pass through the metro’s swinging doors.

A blast of wind
and a cross-fade between two worlds.

I follow the path on the right
heading south down Atwater Avenue,
towards the church.

I’ve entered the world of the city,
of staccato sounds: car horns, the screech of brakes, laughter.

In my mind, these noises create
a sonorous soundscape.

The church is just a bit farther,
after the bus shelter.

Snatches of conversation from the waiting line.
The crash of a manhole cover.
The screech of a truck.
I want to transform these into new sounds.

I stop at a red light at the corner of Delisle.
Wait for me across the street if you caught the green.

I’ve crossed the street now,
And I’m heading straight for the market.

Was that a church bell?
No, the sound is coming from farther away,
from the clock tower,
beyond the trees.

Are you coming with me?
To the edge of the Canal?

The Atwater Market clock tower is an excellent landmark.
I head towards it.

Now I’m crossing Workman Street.
But I don’t see a street sign.

Better watch out for the cars…
I slow down.

I’m crossing the street.

OK. I keep walking.

I can still hear the market chimes,
buses, car horns, truck brakes.
A bombardment of percussive sounds.
I compare their timbres.

I blend this cacophony
with other, more resonant sounds.
I multiply the percussive sounds,
I intensify the resonance.

I’m a composer.
I’m creating a composition
inspired by the world around me.

The street rises slightly now.
I keep walking.

There are a lot of trucks here
at the corner of Notre-Dame.

Another red light.
I wait and then cross.

Now I’ve crossed the intersection.

OK.
I walk all the way to the curve.

I stop at the curve
to cross on the left
between the white lines.
I’m waiting for the pedestrian signal
so I can cross onto the median,
in the middle of the road.
This is a dangerous intersection.

I see the orange hand, so I can’t cross yet.
Wait for me across the street if you’re ahead of me.

Tall objects dominate the landscape.
I’m going to head towards
the clock tower
and then walk down the street with the lampposts.

I’ve started crossing.

Now I’m on the median,
in the middle of the road.
I’m waiting for the green light.

I start walking again,
towards the market.
Straight ahead.

OK. I’ve crossed the street now.

I keep walking,
following the lampposts.

They remind me of the masts of ships.
Of a time when
boats would sound three siren blasts
when the canal opened in the spring.

Three powerful sounds,
deep and loud.
Steam pouring from their smokestacks.

And the factory sirens that defined the day.
Start of shift in the morning,
break for lunch,
end of shift at 4 o’clock.

And on New Year’s,
the factories all
blared their sirens in unison.
Those sounds took your breath away.

There, on the left, opposite the clock tower,
is Rufus Rockhead Street.
Named after a jazz promoter of the period.
I keep walking.

Watch out for the cars
At the next corner.
I’m crossing Saint-Ambroise Street.

And I’ve finally arrived!

I’m climbing the steps to the wooden deck.
Towards the little building with the transparent roof.
On the left, there’s a series of sculptures.
Let’s meet at the first sculpture, the one with two pianos.

SIDE A

SEQUENCE 1

A few jazz notes, and then silence.
My composition would start like that.
Rising tension
followed by suspension.

I step onto the terrace.
to create a choreography,
little dance steps, passing
from one sculpture to the next.

I’ll begin with the 1930s,
a time of crisis,
the Great Depression.

Unemployed workers are hired
to build the Atwater Market.
Music!

Back then, Montreal was a city of nightclubs.
You could even say that Montreal’s jazz scene was born here.
The first Jazzmen,
Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones,
and Rufus Rockhead,
Montreal’s great jazz promoter.

Facing the canal,
I view the buildings on this side of the shore.
To the east of the footbridge, on the left,
was Sainte-Cunégonde.
The city’s first blacks came here
from the Caribbean,
to work as porters on the railway.

On my right, to the west,
if I move a bit towards the canal,
I can see the Saint-Henri Bridge in the distance,
Saint-Henri: the archetype of a French working-class neighbourhood.

There was a lot going on back then.
In music and industry!

Enough said. Let’s get going.
I’m heading for that footbridge,
the one that spans the canal.

I’m crossing the tracks.

SEQUENCE 2

The footbridge quakes
producing vibrations.
I can feel the high and low frequencies,
pulses of sound waves.
My body is vibrating!

I stop for a moment
In the middle of the bridge
to take in the view,
the horizontal expanse of the canal
punctuated by verticals: chimneys and electrical pylons.

In this great corridor,
the wind changes the texture of the water.

I lean on the rail
and watch the waves
under the footbridge.
Circular ripples.
In winter, this is a solid expanse, frozen and still.

Now I see the grooves
of a record,
spinning with the current.

"Wave". That’s what I’ll call this composition.

I start walking again, across the bridge
to the other side.
Morse code beeps appear.

The sound moves from my right ear to my left,
in the direction of the current.

I think about the widening of the canal
over time,
from 15 meters to 36 meters to 61 meters.

After crossing the bridge,
I turn left.

I continue eastward,
walking through the grass beside the building,
immersed in this urban woodland.

SEQUENCE 3

Now I’m walking alongside the building.
The graffiti remind me of seaweed.
I can smell the water.

Suddenly, it’s quieter.
I hear the sound of the trees
surrounding me.

Only my footsteps break the silence.

The friction of the leaves,
sounds like scratching on a vinyl record,
speeding up the playback
and then slowing it down.

As I walk,
I brush against the bark of the trees.

I read the graffiti on the wall.
I reverse the direction of the music.

I imagine this composition as two sides of a single record.
Side 1 / The Outward Journey: The shape of the composition. Vocal track.
Side 2 / The Return: The composition itself. Musical track.

I turn left.
The footpath is more winding here.
I head towards the shore.

This walking tour plays out in two time signatures:
The steps of the walker set the beat, the tempo of the present,
and above that, the accelerated, shaky rhythm
of historical time,
superimposed on the here and now.

As I pass the boat rental,
I recall those great river boats, the "canalers"
passing through the canal at an average of 50 a day.
Colliers, grain carriers, oil tankers, timber transports ...

The rumble of engines,
mixed with the shrill sounds of the sawmills,
across the canal.
Those industries that once sold
wood by the board.

That's the accelerated rhythm of the canal.
superimposed on this walk,
with a play of syncopated rhythms
and eclectic styles.

I set off again.

SEQUENCE 4

Now, the space opens up.
I can see the bridge in its entirety.

I’m going to walk under the Charlevoix Bridge.

A few musical notes.
The structure of the bridge changes their pitch,
their duration, their intensity, the quality of the vibration.
Like John Cage’s “prepared piano”
with objects inserted to alter the sound.

The metal resonates,
Gears collide,
the structure is ringing,
moving.

The piano notes deepen the plot

I begin my descent,
heading under the bridge,
along the concrete walkway.

The piano hammers out
the clanging of gears.
Then the bridge turns, around its center,
making the strings resonate, changing their timbre.

Suspension!
I stop as the music stops.
Under the bridge.

A minute of silence.
I hear the bridge singing.

SEQUENCE 5

The sound of whistles.
I keep walking and come out on the other side.
I climb the slope and
head for the shore.

Shrill cries of children.
The rocks clash under their feet.
I imagine them on Sundays,
playing on the bridge
under the watchful eye of the bridge operator,
or more often in secret.

An enormous boat approaches.
Twenty-five hundred tons.
It announces its presence.

A crowd gathers around the bridge,
to watch the show.

The soundtrack intensifies.
At the top of the slope, I take the footpath,
and keep walking,
continuing along the shore.

In my left ear,
I imagine the sounds from the brick building,
across the canal,
the metallic rhythms of the Steel Company of Canada.
Men cutting metal in sheets,
pieces and strips,
transforming them into nuts and bolts.

In my right ear,
a rush of steam,
from the Canadian Bag building.
Water vapour shooting out
from the jute-weaving machines.

Fog and industrial music,
the epitome of Futurist Luigi Riussolo’s manifesto:
The Art of Noises.

Then a sharp sound stops the music.

SEQUENCE 6 and 7

My gaze falls onto the cylindrical tower,
across the canal,
the shot tower.

I approach the shore,
and stop for a moment
to have a look.

At the top of the tower
the heat from the furnace
melted the lead.

The lead passed through a sieve,
with openings of various sizes.

The lead fell to the bottom of the tower
and balls were formed,
congealing in the basin of water.

I start walking again.

Synthesizer notes.
Staccato droplets.
I multiply the pulsations,
I add reverb.

I use a granulator
to fragment the sounds.

Before me, the road narrows.
The falling lead morphs into rain.

Opposite the tower,
the rain reaches its maximum intensity.

I repeat the sequence.
Slightly modifying its structure.

Passing through the trees
I add reverb
and distortion,
to create white noise.

As I emerge from the trees,
I can see the great concrete silos,
across the canal.
A mill
for converting wheat into flour.

The grains of wheat are carried up the silos,
cleaned and crushed.
They fall through a series of screens,
as the flour becomes finer and finer.

The music stops.
We hear the sound of factory fans,
on either side of the canal.

I keep walking.

Ahead on my right,
there used to be an enormous ropery
that extended all the way
to the bridge behind us.
Whit a low, narrow building,
a rope walk,
for manufacturing long ropes.

I follow an imaginary line
that leads me
to all that’s left of the old ropery:
a small brick tower.

I walk past the brick tower.

Decrescendo on the fans.

SEQUENCE 8

Surrounded by trees,
it is quiet again.

As I walk,
I imagine the industrial effluvia:

  • smell of paint
  • odour of ground wheat and flour
  • scent of molasses and brown sugar
  • fragrance of pine resin
  • fumes of oil or gasoline
  • coal smoke
They used to call the canal “Smokey Valley”.

In my composition, these scents are suggested by layers of sound,
sometimes light, sometimes heavy.

SEQUENCE 9

Emerging from the trees
you can see the next bridge.
Des Seigneurs Bridge

The piano music returns:
a reprise.

As I approach the bridge,
I try to imagine its oscillation.

Before crossing the street,
I touch the bridge.

With a contact microphone
pressed agains the metal structure
I capture its vibrations.

Careful now, I have to cross the road.
I make sure to look both ways.
And I follow the pedestrian crossing
to continue
along the same side of the canal.

I’ve crossed the road now.
I’m taking the pathway
that heads straight down
towards the lock.

I begin to hear the mass of water,
rushing down into the weir.

The water moves faster.

It becomes a soundscape.
A powerful sound, sufficient unto itself.

I turn left and walk
to the middle of the bridge.
Look out for the bicycles!

I get as close as possible to the waterfall,
and face the mass of sound.

I can sense it.
I listen with my left ear.

I turn around,
to sense it behind me,
with my right ear.

I turn towards it again.

The music captures this effect of turning.

I go back across the bridge.
Then I turn right
and head for the end of the quay,
staying close to the water.

I listen to the sound source gradually fading,
passing from my left ear,
to my right.

I head for the bench
at the end of the quay.

Another waterfall.

I stop and sit on the bench.

In winter, there are large chunks of ice here.
The water is passable beyond the weir,
but on the other side,
the ice freezes.

I think about the smaller channels,
on either side of the canal,
bringing water to the factories,
generating hydropower
for 17 industrial lots.

In the factory basements,
the waterpower was converted into energy.

I imagine the voices of women
in the Belding Corticelli plant,
on my right,
and the sounds of the silk-weaving machines.

The music starts to rise.

Repetitive music.
Gears, belts and pulleys,
capturing the mechanical energy of the water,
and transferring it to the factory machines.
Throughout these plants, a continuous rolling,
rumbling, trembling.

I hear a noise on my left.
Activity in the lock.
A boat is waiting to enter the canal.
The water in the lock rises.

Then the doors open
and shut.

When you leave the Saint-Gabriel Lock,
You can listen to the side 2 of Wave.
the musical side.
My composition.

Turn around and follow the same route,
back along the canal,
to the Atwater Market.

END

SIDE 2

INTRO 3: (to the musical section)

The music.

Turn to face the Des Seigneurs Bridge.
Walk towards the bridge,
along the south side of the canal,
the one with the old factories.

You should be heading west, upstream.

Past the bridge, keep on straight,
towards the Atwater Market.

Coordinate your steps with the rhythm of the music.
Let it carry you.
The walk will last about 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

You are passing the south side
of the des Seigneurs Bridge.
Keep walking.

Go under the south side
of the Charlevoix Bridge.
Keep walking.

You arrive at the Atwater footbridge.
Turn right,
and cross to the other side.

Your tour ends here.

You can listen, or re-listen,
to Side 1 of Wave
describing the creation of the composition
inspired by the Lachine Canal.

THE END