Catching up at the (virtual) service desk with Professor Hank Knox

This series features Schulich School of Music faculty presenting a selection
of books and music that they are exploring – for edification, inspiration, or
distraction – during these long months of social isolation. These short
interviews seek to emulate the spontaneous interactions that our patrons
enjoyed in the Music Library discussing their current reads or the recordings
that they had recently discovered (or rediscovered!). Tune in to learn about
new works and old favourites, and let us know what you are reading and
listening to!

Our ninth post in this series features Hank Knox, Associate Professor, Early Music and Harpsichord.

Q. What have you been up to in the last few months?

A. It has been a strange year! I went from an agenda covered in entries to nothing at all between March 12 and 13 last year. Since then I’ve had a lot of time to read, watch some shows and movies, practice, walk and think…

A large part of my reading has been Canadian authors. I took the first part of the year to go through all of the Mordecai Richler novels, mostly in chronological order. So much of the action takes place where I live in Montreal, I can trace the footsteps of his characters in my daily wanderings. In the fall, I discovered the writing of Kathleen Winter, a Newfoundland author currently living near Montreal. I started with Annabel, a moving story of a trans person from a remote Newfoundland village, and moved on to Boundless, her account of a boat voyage through the Canadian North. I also caught up on the most recent novels by Ian Rankin, Scottish detective novelist extraordinaire, and William Gibson.

Thanks to the Apple health app, I know that since the start of the pandemic here in Quebec, I have walked over 1,600km and taken over 2,750,000 steps!

I have listened to a modest amount of music, most recently the first CD by Montreal Early Music ensemble, Les Barocudas, consisting of recent McGill graduates Marie Nadeau-Tremblay (violin), Ryan Gallagher (cello and gamba) and Nathan Mondry (harpsichord and organ). Their offering, planned well over a year ago, features music from another time of pestilence, the great plagues of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Despite the macabre thematics, the music is beautiful and the playing very moving.

After several uninspired months, I started practicing in earnest last fall and have prepared the 30 sonatas from Domenico Scarlatti’s Essercizi per gravicembalo, or Keyboard exercises, delightfully acrobatic pieces that have pushed me technically like I haven’t pushed myself in ages. With some luck, there will be a CD.

Finally, along with the various British detective series we’ve been watching, I watched the recently released documentary by Alex Winter called, Zappa!, about, oddly enough, Frank Zappa. Some 5 or 6 years ago, a call went out on Kickstarter to help fund the preservation of the video material in Zappa’s extensive personal vault, a project to which I contributed enthusiastically, and the movie, featuring much of that material, premiered in the last few months and is wonderful. (Maybe the best part was looking for my name in little letters in the Thank You section at the very end!).

Catching up at the (virtual) service desk with Professor Stephen McAdams

This series features Schulich School of Music faculty presenting a selection
of books and music that they are exploring – for edification, inspiration, or
distraction – during these long months of social isolation. These short
interviews seek to emulate the spontaneous interactions that our patrons
enjoyed in the Music Library discussing their current reads or the recordings
that they had recently discovered (or rediscovered!). Tune in to learn about
new works and old favourites, and let us know what you are reading and
listening to!

Our eighth post in this series features Stephen McAdams, Professor in the Department of Music Research at the Schulich School of Music, and Director of the Analysis, Creation and Teaching of Orchestration (ACTOR) Project.

Image from: Mackesy, Charlie. 2019. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse. Ebury Press.

Q. What are you currently reading?

A. Charlie Mackesy’s illustrated book The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse (although I’m reading the French translation sent to me for Christmas by my eldest daughter in Paris). It’s about friendship and helping each other out. It has beautiful pen and water-colour illustrations and a hand-written font. A taste: “Sometimes I feel lost,” said the boy. “Me too,” said the mole, “but we love you, and love, it’s like a home” (with a drawing of the boy, the mole and the fox sitting on a tree branch looking out over a valley).

Q: What have you been listening to these days?

A. A lot of music for modern Chinese orchestra by Chinese composers. Notably “Tremors of a memory chord” by Lei Liang and “Dong Hai Yu Ge” originally written for the Guzheng by Zhang Yan and orchestrated for mixed orchestra of Western and Chinese instruments by Ma Sheng Long and Gu Guan Ren. Completely new to me. It’s part of a diversity effort in the ACTOR project led globally by Bob Hasegawa and locally for East Asian music by Interdisciplinary Music Studies PhD Lena Heng. 

Q. Have you attended any concerts or events lately?

A. I followed the series of Beethoven symphonies done virtually through Deutsche Grammaphon Stage by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre Métropolitain. They were all recorded under pandemic conditions in the Salle Bourgie with the orchestra spread throughout the whole space. Some great video footage and surprisingly good sound recording over internet.

Q. What are you most looking forward to post-Covid?

A. Being with my lab members in person. I really miss hanging out with them all.

Catching up at the (virtual) service desk with Professor Shawn Mativetsky

This series features Schulich School of Music faculty presenting a selection
of books and music that they are exploring – for edification, inspiration, or
distraction – during these long months of social isolation. These short
interviews seek to emulate the spontaneous interactions that our patrons
enjoyed in the Music Library discussing their current reads or the recordings
that they had recently discovered (or rediscovered!). Tune in to learn about
new works and old favourites, and let us know what you are reading and
listening to!

Our seventh post in this series features Shawn Mativetsky, Course Lecturer in Music Education, Musicianship and Percussion, and Director of the McGill Tabla Ensemble.

Image credit: Caroline Tabah

Q. What are you currently reading?

A. During the semester, I have difficulty finding time to read books, and generally save them for the summer and winter breaks, when I can devote my attention over longer periods of time. For the moment, I tend to mainly read the local, Canadian, and international news, and try to keep up with current events in music, especially relating to percussion and North Indian classical music. I have also been reading a few cookbooks (and enjoying cooking new recipes)! Recent favourites are Michael Solomonov’s Zahav and Israeli Soul.

Q: Have you been able to attend any virtual concerts or conferences?

A. No conferences of late, but I was fortunate to virtually attend the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, which was held online this past November. The convention included numerous workshops, masterclasses, round table discussions, and performances, some pre-recorded and some streamed live. I definitely did enjoy the live-streamed sessions more, as there was an active chat discussion, which allowed for interaction with the presenters and participants and provided a feeling of communicating with the greater percussion community. When PASIC takes place in person, typically somewhere between 5000 and 8000 percussionists are in attendance. Adapting this type of event to an online format must certainly have been challenging, but the organizers pulled off a highly successful event in this new format.

Q. What are you most looking forward to post-Covid?

A. What I am looking forward to the most, as I suspect most musicians are, is the return to live concerts and touring. To go from an active concert and travel schedule to staying essentially at home for an entire year has been quite a change. Though this pandemic perhaps has forced many of us to take some much needed time to slow down, reflect, and adapt. In my case, this fortunately provided me the opportunity to write a book this past summer, RUDIMENTAAL – Pieces for Snare Drum Inspired by the Tabla Drumming of North India, that has been on my to-do list for many years! Nevertheless, I’m very much looking forward to getting outside my bubble and to reconnecting with friends, colleagues, and audiences, once the public health situation allows it. It’s an understatement to say that those first concerts are sure to be highly memorable!

Catching up at the (virtual) service desk with Professor Isabelle Cossette

This series features Schulich School of Music faculty presenting a selection
of books and music that they are exploring – for edification, inspiration, or
distraction – during these long months of social isolation. These short
interviews seek to emulate the spontaneous interactions that our patrons
enjoyed in the Music Library discussing their current reads or the recordings
that they had recently discovered (or rediscovered!). Tune in to learn about
new works and old favourites, and let us know what you are reading and
listening to!

Our sixth post in this series features Isabelle Cossette, Associate Professor, Music Education.

Q. What are you currently reading?

A. I am currently reading a book from Luca di Fulvio. I really liked the first one I read from him, Les enfants de Venise. Now I’m reading Le gang des rêves. It is a bit darker but is still interesting, it is set in New York around 1920, and highlights class differences. I will soon start reading another book by di Fulvio, Le soleil des rebelles.

Another book I have been reading is Performing Music Research, which was recently launched by Aaron Williamon and other colleagues! Professor Williamon has held the position of Schulich Distinguished Visiting Professor and Dean’s Chair in Music for the past two years. Anyone interested in performance research should definitely check out this book!

Q. What have you been listening to these days?

A. I have listened quite a lot to the relatively new Jean Leloup Album: L’étrange pays. He is a fabulous poet. At the end of February, I listened to a great virtual concert produced by Les nuits d’Afrique, which focused on the diversity and kindred ancestral ties between Africa and the First Nations. The performance featured Djely TapaAnachnid et Mi’gmafrica.

Q. Have you attended any conferences or events lately?

A. This past week, I attended the opening movie of Le Festival International du Film sur l’Art: the film, Beijing Spring, reveals the role a small group of avant-garde Chinese artists, the Stars, had on Beijing Spring, a brief period of political liberalization and freedom of expression in China in the late 70s and early 80s.

This online Festival will also feature Les frontières de l’art, a film written and produced by my husband on the Quebec art world and in which I performed.

Q. What are you most looking forward to post-Covid?

A. What I am most looking forward to post-Covid is seeing my parents and family, going out on terrasses, eating in restaurants, and having dinners with friends!

Catching up at the (virtual) service desk with Professor Dorian Bandy

This series features Schulich School of Music faculty presenting a selection
of books and music that they are exploring – for edification, inspiration, or
distraction – during these long months of social isolation. These short
interviews seek to emulate the spontaneous interactions that our patrons
enjoyed in the Music Library discussing their current reads or the recordings
that they had recently discovered (or rediscovered!). Tune in to learn about
new works and old favourites, and let us know what you are reading and
listening to!

Our fifth post in this series features Dorian Bandy, Professor of Music History and Early Music.

pile of books next to cactus

Q. What are you currently reading?

A. For an academic, there’s never a simple answer to this question! This term, much of my reading has been in connection with the graduate seminar I’m teaching, Approaches to Musical Meaning. Currently, we’re reading two chapters from R.A. Sharpe’s Music and Humanism, and we’ve also spent quite a bit of time this term on chapters from Roger Scruton’s The Aesthetics of Music. Both are extraordinary books: rigorous in their philosophical arguments but also beautiful and intimate in the way they take account of the musical experience. Scruton’s book is, taken as a whole, particularly inspiring in this regard. But Sharpe, too, explores some wonderful ideas about the meaning and value of music. He makes a compelling case that musical works are best appreciated in exactly the same way that we appreciate people—and beyond the strength of his arguments, this idea has always rung true for me. Especially during a time of comparative isolation, I feel more aware than ever that the people I regularly spend time with include various favourite concertos, sonatas, and operas!

Aside from “official” reading for my seminar, my pleasure reading over the past few weeks has included David Friedman’s Law’s Order (a nonfiction book about the relationship between economics and law), which has completely reshaped my understanding of the legal norms of Anglophone countries; Martin Amis’s novel The Information (a book whose plot does not matter at all; reading it, one forgets that there’s a story and instead just delights in the liveliness and brilliance of Amis’s prose); and various collections of John Hollander’s poetry, including In Time and Place and Blue WineIn Time and Place is an interesting and beautiful collection in which every stanza is rhymed A/B/B/A. In one poem, he self-consciously reflects on this constraint:

Why have I locked myself inside
This narrow cell of four-by-four,
Pacing the shined, reflecting floor
Instead of running free and wide? 

He goes on for quite a few pages discussing the history of this rhyme-scheme (never once departing from it), and ultimately concludes that the scheme itself is a metaphor—for love, for distance, and even for the passing of time:

I, too, fill up this suite of rooms,
A bit worn now, with crowds of word,
Hoping that prosody’s absurd
Law can reform the thoughts it dooms;

An emblem of love’s best and worst:
Marriage (where hand to warm hand clings,
Inner lines, linked by rhyming rings;
Distance between the last and first),

This quatrain is born free, but then
Handcuffed to a new inner sound,
After what bliss it may have found
Returns to the first again.

— Not our bilateral symmetry,
But low reflecting high, as on
His fragile double poised, the swan:
What’s past mirrored in what will be.

Q. What are you listening to these days?

A. For the past two months, I’ve been on a pretty intense Beethoven kick. Beethoven is one of my favourite composers, so it’s not unusual for me to listen to his music—but my focus these past two months has been unusual for being uninterrupted. I traveled to the UK in December, and when I returned to Montreal and had to spend two weeks in isolation, I listened twice to the entire piano sonata cycle (the period-instrument recording featuring Malcolm Bilson and colleagues). I also listened through all of the string chamber music, the piano concertos, and the violin sonatas. I’m now on to the piano trios, and have been listening to a marvellous recording by Trio Goya. A few days ago I finally broke the Beethoven habit and listened to Trio Goya’s Haydn recording—and the music-making is just spectacular.

I’ll also report on two films I’ve discovered this winter: the first is What’s Up, Doc, which was recommended by my music history area colleagues Lisa, David, and Chip. (It came up in a faculty meeting a few weeks ago because much of it takes place at a musicology conference—though this is just the on-ramp to an unrelentingly hilarious farce in the spirit of Bringing Up Baby.) The other is Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which didn’t impress me when I saw them in theatres in my teens and early twenties, but really captivated me now. All three movies in the trilogy are aesthetically beautiful, philosophically rich, and even psychologically deep. (This is not something I ever thought I’d say about a Batman movie!)

Catching up at the (virtual) service desk with Professor Ichiro Fujinaga

This series features Schulich School of Music faculty presenting a selection
of books and music that they are exploring – for edification, inspiration, or
distraction – during these long months of social isolation. These short
interviews seek to emulate the spontaneous interactions that our patrons
enjoyed in the Music Library discussing their current reads or the recordings
that they had recently discovered (or rediscovered!). Tune in to learn about
new works and old favourites, and let us know what you are reading and
listening to!

Our fourth post in this series features Ichiro Fujinaga, Associate Professor, Music Technology, Director Distributed Digital Music Archives & Libraries Lab (DDMAL).

The 2020 International Society for Music Information Retrieval (ISMIR) Conference.

 

Q: What have you been reading/listening to these days?

A: I have been reading a book about databases, which I discovered in the McGill Library catalogue. It is called  RDF Database Systems by Olivier Curé and Guillaume Blin. As for music, I have been listening to some old favorites and newer groups: J-Pop (Namie Amuro, Hikaru Utada, M-Flo, Ko Shibasaki), Jazz (Michel Camilo, David Sanborn, David Weckl, Paco de Lucia) and Bach’s Mass in B minor. I’ve also recently discovered Corinne Bailey Rae and Love Harmony’s, Inc. which have been on my playlist this last while.

Q: Have you been able to attend any virtual concerts or conferences?

A: We had the pleasure of hosting the International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference in October, 2020. It was challenging as we had never done anything like it before! I had great help from people around me, and it was quite successful with a record-breaking attendance of over 800 people (whereas it is usually in the 400–600 range).

Catching up at the (virtual) service desk with Professor Lloyd Whitesell

This series features Schulich School of Music faculty presenting a selection of books and music that they are exploring – for edification, inspiration, or distraction – during these long months of social isolation. These short interviews seek to emulate the spontaneous interactions that our patrons enjoyed in the Music Library discussing their current reads or the recordings that they had recently discovered (or rediscovered!). Tune in to learn about new works and old favourites, and let us know what you are reading and listening to!

Our third post in this series features Lloyd Whitesell, Professor of Music History/Musicology, and Associate Dean, Research and Administration.

Q: What have you been reading these days?

A: I’ve been digging into my fiction library at home, rereading some favorites and things I forgot I had. During the pandemic I got intrigued by plague literature, and this led me to reread Margaret Atwood’s “Maddaddam” trilogy—a brilliant dystopia about a man-made plague. I also just finished something I read back in my teen years (when it was written), John Christopher’s “Tripods” trilogy, a classic alien invasion adventure/Bildungsroman. And I had forgotten how whimsical and enjoyable the young adult author Nancy Farmer is: e.g., The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, a mutant-detective story set in 22nd-century Zimbabwe. New discoveries: Patrick GaleA Place Called Winter—sort of like Brokeback Mountain in the Canadian prairies. I just bought the acclaimed novel The Prophets (Robert Jones, Jr), about forbidden love between two enslaved young men on a Southern plantation, looking forward to reading it.

As for non-fiction, I’m reading The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, about scholars hunting for ancient books in the Italian Renaissance; White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo; and Kate ManneDown Girl (a philosophical analysis of misogyny). I just acquired two high-theory treatises at the intersection of disability and queer studies: Jasbir PuarThe Right To Maimand Mel Y. ChenAnimacieswhich look rather daunting!

Q: Have you been able to attend any virtual concerts or conferences? If so, can you tell us about one?

A: I’m preparing to present at a virtual conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of Joni Mitchell’s album Blue. Professor Nicole Biamonte will also be a featured presenter.

Catching up at the (virtual) service desk with Professor Lisa Lorenzino

This series features Schulich School of Music faculty presenting a selection of books and music that they are exploring – for edification, inspiration, or distraction – during these long months of social isolation. These short interviews seek to emulate the spontaneous interactions that our patrons enjoyed in the Music Library discussing their current reads or the recordings that they had recently discovered (or rediscovered!). Tune in to learn about new works and old favourites, and let us know what you are reading and listening to!

Our second post in this series features Dr. Lisa Lorenzino, Area Coordinator, Music Education.

profile photo of Lisa Lorenzino

Q. What are you currently reading? 

A. I don’t usually read much when I teach a graduate course like I am doing this Winter, but somehow, I am getting into reading again. I also joined a book club which is introducing me to new topics. Currently, I am reading three books, which is something I do quite often. 

I have been reading The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams since the early fall, digesting it in small amounts and reflecting on it. It has been a life saver, so to speak, and has taught me a lot during these times of Covid-19. I discovered this book in August of last year on a trip to Paragraph Books, my favourite Montreal bookstore. 

Just recently, I started power reading through another book that I picked up at Paragraph Books to satisfy my now thwarted travel bug. The book is entitled The Pursuit of Art by Martin Gayford. It is 19 short essays on travelling the world to see a range of art installations. It covers art from ancient times to contemporary performance art. So interesting.

Fiction wise, I am in the beginning pages of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I finished another novel of hers, which I loved, so thought I would try this one. Again, I was introduced to this writer by an employee of Paragraph Books.

Q. What are you listening to these days?

A. I am a devoted fan of Ici Musique 100.7 Radio in Montreal. My favourite shows are Quand le Jazz est là, every weeknight at 5:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. I usually listen to it sipping a glass of wine, lounging on the couch. On Friday nights, I love the Blues Show and also Un nomade dans l’oreille, a world or global music show that introduces me to so many interesting artists.  

In the car, on the way to cross country skiing every week, we have been revisiting our CD collection (yes, we still listen to CDs) including 80s favourites like Tracy Chapman, Annie Lennox, and George Michael. Other driving tunes are from Eva Cassidy, Jewel, and the likes. Guess that my western roots are coming out there. 

I also enjoy investigating various YouTube postings by fellow McGill faculty members and artists that they recommend. As always, I search out popular Brazilian performers.

Q. Have you been able to attend any virtual concerts or conferences? If so, can you tell us about one?

A. Live virtual concerts on YouTube have been great.  I especially love the series recorded recently at the Wheel Club here in Montreal.  Check out Dawn Tyler Watson‘s concert and Dave Gossage.  They are both wonderful.

Q. What are you most looking forward to post-Covid?

A. I am most looking forward to an evening where we go out to eat with friends and then we all play music together, well into the night. 

Catching up at the (virtual) service desk with Professor Edward Klorman

This series features Schulich School of Music faculty presenting a selection of books and music that they are exploring – for edification, inspiration, or distraction – during these long months of social isolation. These short interviews seek to emulate the spontaneous interactions that our patrons enjoyed in the Music Library discussing their current reads or the recordings that they had recently discovered (or rediscovered!). Tune in to learn about new works and old favourites, and let us know what you are reading and listening to!

Our first post in this series features Edward Klorman, Associate Professor, Music Theory.

Screenshot of Edward Klorman’s current Zoom virtual background. “It’s a picture I snapped at a gift shop at a hotel I once stayed at in Lübeck, Germany. I initially misread it as “Ursatz,” a rather obscure music theory term for abstract musical structures. I’m sure I’m the only person who read it that way, since the actual word, “Ursalz,” simply means “sea salt.” I guess you live and learn!”

Q: What are you currently reading?

A: Lately, I’ve been reading about how universities operate and trying to understand how students, faculty, and staff can influence a more inclusive culture within large institutions. I recently read a fascinating book called Black Racialization and Resistance at an Elite University by rosalind hampton. The author is a professor of social justice education at the University of Toronto, and the book is based on research she conducted during her doctorate at McGill University, examining what she calls “colonialist ideology” and “a culture of whiteness” endemic to the university. The book is about McGill, but it could be about any number of North American universities, and as a relative newcomer to Québec, it gave me a lot of helpful context. I first encountered the book last summer as part of an anti-racist discussion group in the Music Theory Area, and I reread it when the author recently visited McGill (virtually) for a discussion event sponsored by the Subcommittee on Racialized and Ethnic Persons and the Black Students’ Network.

Next on my reading list is The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, by Benjamin Ginsberg, about the shrinking role of faculty self-governance in the affairs of institutions of higher learning, a book that several of my colleagues have recommended.


Q: What are you listening to these days?

A: For almost a year now, I’ve been going on daily walks for at least an hour a day. A lot of my listening lists are podcasts hosted by women and BIPOC hosts, since I enjoy encountering perspectives beyond my own experience. Lately, I’ve been listening to podcasts focusing on history (or alternative versions of familiar history) that go beyond what I learned in school. One of my favorites is NPR’s Throughline.

One podcast I’ve listened to lately is called “The Test Kitchen” from Reply All. It focuses on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the magazine Bon Appetit over the past decade and why the workplace culture promoted white writers, editors, and chefs, while keeping others in subordinate positions. It’s very well reported, offering perspectives from many employees who worked at the magazine, and it may offer some insights into work cultures and barriers to cultural change at some musical and academic institutions. One complication around this podcast, though: some of the producers who developed it have themselves been accused by co-workers of undermining diversity and equity efforts at their own company. I still recommend the podcast series, but a lesson learned for me is that it’s always important to listen to and amplify the most marginalized voices in discussions around diversifying our workplaces and institutions.

I’ve also been listening a lot to Bach’s cello suites, since I’m currently at work on a book on those pieces and am keen to hear different performance approaches. And I’ve also been listening to musicians who’ve passed away during the pandemic. This week, I’ve been listening to the folk singer and activist Anne Feeney, who is probably best known for “Have You Been to Jail for Justice?” and “Union Maid,” and who sadly succumbed to COVID earlier this month.


Q: Have you been able to attend any virtual concerts or conferences? If so, can you tell us about one?

A: It’s been fascinating to see the creative ways my musician and scholar friends have stayed active in new ways during this period of physical distancing! One highlight this year was Diversifying Music Academia 2020, sponsored by Project Spectrum, a graduate student-led coalition with a mission of bolstering community and shifting the culture within our disciplines toward confronting racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. A few things really struck me about this (virtual) symposium: the grassroots organizing and coalition building led by graduate students, the engagement across subdisciplines (such as historical musicology, ethnomusicology, and theory), and the focus on identifying forms of exclusion or injustice that can often be hard to recognize.


Q: What are you most looking forward to post-Covid?

A: Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to visiting with friends and family and to attending live music, theater, and dance. I’m keenly aware of how challenging this extended period of physical distancing and remote interaction has been for so many students, in terms of straining our social connections, challenges to physical and mental wellbeing, financial precarity, and so on. So I’m looking forward to a time when these concerns will be less acute and we can focus more on learning, making music, and building our community together.

Radio and the Performing Arts

In May 2020, the annual conference of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) was set to take place in Montreal, along with an exhibition at the Music Library on radio and the performing arts. Due to COVID-19, the conference was instead hosted virtually. The curators also moved their exhibition online, creating a virtual exhibition that the general public can explore. These events were planned in conjunction with the Centennial of Broadcasting in Canada, co-organized by the Musée des ondes Emile Berliner and the Société Québécoise des Collectionneurs de Radios Anciens (SQCRA), to mark the 100th anniversary of radio broadcasting in Canada.

One of the many reports published following the broadcast of May 20, 1920. Source: Montreal Daily Star May 21, 1920.

The virtual exhibition “Radio and the Performing Arts” provides an exceptional opportunity to discover the rich history of the radio in Montreal. The city played a key role in the development of the radio as means of mass communication in Canada. Because of its position at the time in the transportation network, linked at once to the cross-country railway system and as a naval port of entry, Montreal was heavily invested in developing technology that would allow for more efficient and productive communication. Montreal therefore had an important influence not only on the development of radio technology and manufacturing and the design of equipment, but also on the sociocultural shaping of the medium with regards to its content and programming.

Eaton’s catalogue 1926-1927. The various forms of entertainment that radio could bring to the home are drawn on the membrane of a cone speaker.

Since its beginnings, the radio allowed people to bring music and theater into their homes in a whole new way. In the early 20th century, mechanically produced recordings were few in number and often had poor sound quality. The radio permitted live broadcasting of concerts in addition to the broadcasting of recordings. In the 1920s, CKAC, the station owned by La Presse, boasted a concert stage and a Casavant organ. In 1923, the station broadcast Robert Planquette’s operetta Les cloches de Corneville, a production that included a full chorus and orchestra. Within the next few years, CKAC negotiated a deal with the American network CBS to broadcast concerts from the USA and Europe, in exchange for concerts performed by the CKAC orchestra, directed by Edmond Trudel. As the cost of a radio receiver became more affordable and open to a larger public, the genres of radio music broadened from classical and opera to include folk and popular song. New dramatic genres were soon adapted for radio broadcasting, such as radio theatre, dramas, and comedy, in addition to courses and lectures. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), launched in the 1930s, emphasized the importance of creating Canadian content as a bulwark against a potential American invasion of English-language airways. The CBC soon launched a family variety radio show, The Happy Gang, and the celebrated Hockey Night in Canada.

Radio Week was organized in Montreal theatres in 1922.
Source: La Presse, June 17, 1922.

Interested in learning more? Explore the virtual exhibition and the Centennial of Broadcasting in Canada website. You can also watch the Facebook Live interview, led by Houman Behzadi, Head Librarian at the Music Library, with curators Alain Dufour and Mariana Mejia Ahrens.