Anyone who enters Concordia’s Webster Library is greeted by sounds of a crackling campfire or light jazz.
The Webster Library’s music installation has been the talk of many, most wondering why there’s music in the first place.
When the library’s staircase underwent renovations — part of the Webster Library’s larger transformation project — a full sound system with speakers in the ceiling was engineered such that the sounds played would remain contained to the staircase. Now, anyone who visits the Webster Library will hear a wide range of music, spoken word poetry and ambient sounds, such as birds chirping, as they enter.
Associate University Librarian Jared Wiercinski explained that the music is pulled from Concordia Library’s vast playlist. “Depending on when you’re in the staircase, you might only hear a few tracks out of a large playlist, which we hope keeps things interesting and fresh.”
He said the library’s sound installation was inspired by R. Murray Schafer, a Canadian composer, who composed soundscapes and worked in acoustic ecology, the study of the relationship between humans and the sounds in their environment.
Wiercinski said the soundscape was created with several goals in mind. It positions the library as a public space that promotes the “playback and enjoyment of sound recordings,” he said. It also aims to make Concordia Library’s large sound recording collection more familiar to the public and engages a diverse community of artists such as musicians, DJs, poets and sound experts to create works to add to the installation. The final goal is to “select sound recordings that encourage a contemplative and energized feeling as people enter the library,” said Wiercinski.
Bronte Williams, a JMSB student, feels that the soundscape doesn’t always achieve its final goal. “The calming music is nice and sets a study vibe, but other times it just distracts me.” She said she would rather there be more continuity to the sounds played. Concordia student Gregory Fils-Aime said “It’s very unexpected, you never know what you’re going to get,” but added that he didn’t find the music distracting.
Anyone can propose a sound be added to the installation by going to the library’s ‘listening spaces’ website. A committee will then review the proposals and select songs based on various criteria such as “the stated rationale, perceived artistic, intellectual, or political value, originality, and the credentials of the selector,” Wiercinski said. Visitors to this site can also contribute their own thoughts on the installation and the music that is played.
Although there are no plans to bring a similar sound installation to the Vanier Library, Wiercinski said they are open to the idea and “would love to hear student feedback about whether or not they would appreciate a similar audio installation.”
Graphic by Wednesday Laplante.