Sound Checkby Amber Goodwyn

As I crawled into bed for the first time in our new home, I could hear the august colour of Folk Festival headliner Neko Case’s voice melting into the neighbourhood quiet. Several days later, my new neighbour greeted me after work by alerting me to faint music in the air. “Paul who?” I asked. “McCartney,” she repeated, staring at me. “Of course,” I laughed in recognition. His name, like the strains of his sound check, had skipped past my notice. I’ve been really busy lately.


We now live in the Crescents area of the Cathedral neighbourhood, an older and fairly affluent part of the city. The trees are beautiful and mature, and although busy thoroughfares trace the area’s edges they never overpower its overall sonic mildness.

Along with its close proximity to downtown, this relative quiet is what brought us here (along with the backyard, the previously written-about basement-for-jamming and other more practical attractions). Sprinklers, birds, the occasional barking dog or car and neighbourly conversation dominate the scene. Our aural immersion into near suburbia is complete; the music of our day-to-evening life has changed drastically from our time in city apartments.


When I worked at a community radio station in Montreal I became friends with a musique actuelle artist named Andrea Jane Cornell. AJ would regularly perform live in studio by creating resonances and tones with field recordings, prepared objects and miking and looping techniques. It wasn’t uncommon for her to point studio microphones out the control room windows to collect the city’s sounds. That hum and buzz would swirl out of my office speakers, punctuated by the raucous crows that nested outside of the station. One day, I reached for my office radio’s volume knob to turn down the sound, only to realize that the stereo was off and that the sound came directly from my wide-open window.

Shifting perspectives in my personal sound world have me thinking of music’s rests and pauses, and how important they are. The 20th century American composer and music theorist John Cage once expanded our understanding of what music could be, drawing us back from beat and melody and purposeful music creation. The spaces he opened up increase one’s notice and appreciation of all states, just like the pauses in music, just like vacation in summertime.

I wish you some peace and quiet before the exciting September noise sets in.

In my ears: Andrea Jane Cornell’s radio in the radio on the radio Vol . 1

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