The idea for this sound installation was inspired by the architectural details of the building currently home to the Musée des Maîtres et Artisans du Québec (Ville Saint-Laurent), as well its its historic and current functions. When I first entered the building, I was impressed not only by its acoustic quality: I was drawn to the angelic wood-carved figures and the (now silenced) Cassavant organ. Given that my practice is to work directly with the local implicated community and its context and concerns, it seemed obvious to incorporate these elements into the artwork. Additionally, as school-aged children make up the largest percentage of annual visitors, and the educational program is a significant element of the Museum’s programming, it was equally obvious to invite children and the educational team to be inherent participants in the process and final artwork.
Having the voices of children and the recorded sounds of a Cassavant organ resonate in the entrance hall of the museum with the sound triggered upon the arrival of school groups and other visitors by the attendant at the front desk, functions on a number of levels:
Given that a large percentage of the visit is dedicated to the appreciation of material objects in the permanent and temporary exhibitions, an invitation to experience sound offers the visitors another cultural dimension quite relevant to the museum’s mandate.
Given that the majority of visitors are school-aged children, having the voices of children present upon entry to the Museum, will set them at ease and allow them to identify with and participate in the experience in a more direct and immediate manner, on their own level.
The sound recording will also function to bring attention to the architecture of the building and some of its central features. Both angels and the (now silenced) organ are key elements in the architecture and history of the building. It is relevant to call attention to these features as a part of the cultural heritage and history of the building as well as supporting the efforts of the Museum mandate which is “reconnues d’intérêt national,” and which:
réunissent des oeuvres d’art sacré, des pièces d’art populaire, des objets et des outils reliés aux métiers traditionnels... From over above the heads of the museum’s visitors, emanating from where the organ actually is located, is the sound of an organ playing as if this one could still sing. Extracts from Martin Jean’s Organ Music of Johann Sebastian Bach recorded on June 6th,7th, 8th, 1993 in the Chapel of St. Timothy (St. Tipus, Missouri) are layered with a soundscape coming from the main floor entrance way. This second track includes adult voices posing the following question “What sounds do the angels make?” followed by a number of speculative answers as offered by the children who were interviewed.
Over the course of the Summer 2002, I interviewed children and recorded their responses to the following question: “What sounds do the angels make?” Sometimes I followed up the question with another: “If we listen with care, what sounds can we hear the angels making?” The children, between the ages of 6 - 15 were interviewed on site, at the Museum. The responses of these children where re-recorded in studio (with select children participants speaking on behalf of the original respondents).
The following is an example of some of the responses (translated from the original languages into English for the purposes of this presentation):
“I don’t know what the angels say... I know that they talk... for sure they speak in Spanish.”
“The angels make natural sounds, like the dripping of water when it rains... only if it is water dripping from a tap, that is not the sound from an angel.”
“Last summer in August, I was sitting outside in the grass and I heard the angels... it was a really low sound... it was the sound of trumpets being played... I am sure it was an angel.”
“When we speak to angels in our hearts, they answer by telling us what we should and shouldn’t do.”
“Angels... they make music on their flutes to keep away bad guys.”
The angels make sounds by moving their wings... They fly very fast, but you know, their wings move very slowly.”
“They play the harp whenever there is a marriage and also they play for the dead.”
“Like the wind, but a bit more serious.”
“The sounds of angels are like the sounds of friendly ghosts”
“The angels voices are gentle and inviting like the voice of my mother.”