On October 30th, 2005 the send+receive festival presented a first time collaboration by Steve Bates and Douglas Moffat. In a requiem for lost acoustic space, Bates and Moffat manipulated field recordings of recently felled poplar trees sampled from a derelict south Montreal park.
Parc Louis-Cyr is located in central Montreal, just south of the railway tracks back behind the Maison Egg Roll. Forgotten and largely unused, it is still on city’s maintenance schedule and city workers are perhaps some of the parks more frequent visitors. The most notable thing about this park is not the blistered asphalt and overgrown croquet pitch, but rather the ring of mature Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides W. Bartram ex Marshall ssp. deltoids ) trees that surround its perimeter.
The bastard-child of street trees, the Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) is mostly recognizable for the drifts of cottony seeds covering the streets of Montreal each spring. But it is also recognizable by its sound. Thousands of small leaves, mounted on stiff petioles are shaken against one another as wind passes through. In autumn, a soft rustle can escalate into a full roar, a unmistakable part of the Montréal soundscape.
Determined to be a safety risk after many had fallen in the October windstorms; all 65 trees surrounding Parc Louis-Cyr were felled. Only the weak-wooded cottonwoods were removed, with maples left untouched and standing uneasily alone in the empty park.
To stand in the centre of this park, surrounded by this army of noisemakers as the wind rushed up the face of the old factory to the south with the CN freight train racheting along just past the fences was one of the most intense acoustic experiences to be found in the city.
What was once one of Montreal’s most arresting acoustic spaces has been silenced.
© 2014 Douglas Moffat