Located in the heart of Montreal, sandwiched between the downtown core and the Old Port, Griffintown is a space where remnants of life can be found and an overwhelming sense of history still resides. Until the mid-twentieth century, Griffintown was a residential, predominantly Irish, working-class neighbourhood. As a result of preparations for Expo ‘67, the City of Montreal decided that Griffintown was an eyesore on the landscape and began its transformation into an industrial neighbourhood. By 1970, most homes, along with St. Ann’s Catholic Church, were torn down and residents moved away.
Sounding Griffintown is a listening guide of the neighbourhood that incorporates memories of its history as told by former residents as well as soundscape recordings and observations. The contrast between past and present is strong as the listener is guided on a walking tour of this once-vibrant community amidst the dreariness that is presently Griffintown. This project does not attempt to recreate history so much as allow listeners to contemplate how soundscapes change and how people’s memories differ yet combine to paint a sonic photograph of their old neighbourhood.
The listening guide combines different disciplines of sound production with recordings of the ever-changing present (soundscape), interviews with former Griffintown residents (documentary), and the imagined sounds of the past (film sound techniques – sound effects and Foley). Drawing from similar work by Janet Cardiff, Diane Leboeuf, and Andra McCartney, Sounding Griffintown balances the sounds of the environment with recorded sounds and takes into consideration how the listener moves through that space and interacts with the environment.
If you can’t make it out to Griffintown to do this walk, please use headphones when listening to the guide. If you’re on your way there now, remember these ground rules:
Please take a copy of the map with you – it tells you where to start and is useful if you get off track.
You are moving through a real environment; things like cars, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians are all around you. Please be careful.
Follow the rhythm of the footsteps as best you can. You’ll be able to hear them now and again during the walk to remind you of the pace.
Don’t cross a street until the narrator indicates – if you get ahead, please wait at the corner. If you fall behind, press pause and make your way to where you’re supposed to be.
Listen! At any moment during this walk, feel free to press pause and remove your headphones – the soundscape is happening all around you. Also, this guide should be listened to in harmony with the sounds of Griffintown – don’t turn your headphones up so loud that you can’t hear what’s around you at the same time.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Featuring the Voices of
Download a copy of the accompanying paper Sounding Griffintown: A Listening Guide of a Montreal Neighbourhood here.
I'd love to hear about what you heard in Griffintown. Questions and comments about Sounding Griffintown can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
More Soundscapes by Lisa Gasior at www.griffinsound.ca.