Arts Exhibit

Habitat Sonore — an immersive audio experience at PHI Centre

Old Montreal’s avant-garde multipurpose arts and culture venue invites you to “tune out the everyday noise and lose yourself in Montréal’s new immersive listening room” until Jan. 29

Habitat Sonore, which “consists of a 16 speaker multichannel array powered by a high-end JBL pre-processor,” has a daily rotation of soundtracks played in its singular room. On the first day, I listened to 64 minutes of a neo-classical piano soundtrack by Canadian platinum pianist Alexandra Strélinski. 

As I was led down a neat concrete basement staircase, through a purple printed door and finally past a black felt curtain at the end of a dim carpeted hallway, I was instructed to throw myself onto any cushy bean bag chair of my choosing. I waited in a dark soundproofed room solely lit by magenta LED strips, which pulsated a hypnotising glow scaling the chamber horizontally. An ambient melody surrounded and greeted me — one I would put on to meditate. Soon enough, I was sent to a different universe.

Habitat Sonore Exhibit at Phi Centre – Courtesy by Julien GRIMARD

Radiating from every corner of the chamber was music that would be a pleasure to have alongside while studying, meditating or falling asleep: pure tranquillity and serenity. It was music that you could find in a cute short student film that pays homage to Wes Anderson. 

Inscape by Strélinski was the first album to be played. Each song brought a different mood. Sometimes cheeky, pensive, desolate, but never disruptive. 

Pianoscope was the second album of hers played through, and it gave pondering 19th century steam-punk villain vibes. Restful nonetheless.

The next day I listened to the second program of three, which consisted of a few different works each by a plethora of artists, totaling nearly an hour. 

Better in the Shade by Polaris Music Award winner Patrick Watson and his bandmate Mishka Stein. The alternative EP felt — in the best way I could put it — sort of low-fi psychedelic experimental. The duo of ASMR vocals and wispy percussion was the seed for melancholy throughout the playthrough. 

Next was a meditative piece by Debbie Doe called Theatre of Dreams. It was a cacophony of sounds traveling from one end of the room to the other, all blending together forming a narrative that one can only interpret using their own imagination. From mystical chiming to macabre droning, and even a demonic cackle, the piece satisfied all my expectations when walking into a sound room such as this. 

Finally, Grammy-winning mixer James Benjamin’s Rainforest enchanted me and cleansed me of all of my worries for the duration of its runtime. The room was transported deep into an unknown jungle, with creatures chirping and predators hunting. Sometimes I could hear a leaf crunching in front of me, or the passing over of a distant airplane, maybe a gunshot from behind, maybe the howling of a monkey to the left of me. For the most part, it was the most therapeutic lullabying experience I could imagine. Rain hitting the rooftop back at home would be of no match to it. 

A great experience, and incredibly relaxing. If I could sit in that beanbag chair until Jan. 29, I would.


Joker’s soundtrack is a failure

The inclusion of a song made by convicted rapist Gary Glitter continues to prove that Todd Phillips is an insensitive filmmaker

By now, you’ve probably seen Joker. You also probably have an opinion on it as the film’s been one of the most divisive pieces of cinema in recent memory. While the subject of debate surrounding the movie has been mainly around its plot points and characterization of its protagonist, Arthur Fleck, its soundtrack also reflects Fleck’s incel behaviour that goes a step too far, by including Gary Glitter’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll (Part 2).”

Glitter was convicted of one count of attempted rape, four counts of incident assault, and one of having sex with an underage girl in 2015. Although Glitter isn’t set to make any money off of his song, the inclusion of “Rock ‘N’ Roll (Part 2)” still acts as a giant middle finger to victims of child abuse.

Joker’s soundtrack features songs that directly reflect Fleck’s personality throughout the film. While many contain allusions to clowns, the songs include subtext that directly relates to Fleck’s social incompetence. “Everybody Plays the Fool” by The Main Ingredient starts with the singer speaking to an unnamed person who spends all their time moping and feeling sorry for themselves – a theme that drives the entirety of Joker.

Songs like “Send in the Clowns” and “White Room” both discuss the end of doomed relationships but, of course, Joker uses them to represent Fleck’s eventual dissociation from society, leading him to become the villain we know.

Naturally, filling a movie with music that could relate to incel-behaviour is an understandable move. The soundtrack sets the tone for the film and helps convey the film’s messages. Having a good soundtrack only elevates the film.

Except in the case of Joker.

Glitter’s inclusion in the film marks a gigantic failure for Todd Phillips, Warner Bros., and everyone else involved with the film’s production. It makes sense for a movie about an incel to include music that contains lyrics about incel-behaviour. The songs mentioned before don’t explicitly reference those themes, but when pairing the lyrics with the themes of the film, they can be interpreted as songs to which Fleck would relate.

“Rock ‘N’ Roll (Part 2)” doesn’t include any lyrics. The song is a three-minute rock fest that’s heavy on chaotic instrumentals and backed by the classic “hey, hey, hey” line repeated throughout. The song has no symbolism as the others do. Sure, it sounds fun, and in the moment you’d have no idea who made it, but its true purpose here is murky.

Did the studio know? I can’t say for sure, but they should have checked.

Joker doesn’t glorify incel-behaviour. It depicts it as truly as possible, but has nothing more to say. It’s an incredibly shallow movie that’s made even more numbing when paired with the inclusion of Glitter’s song.

This is just another addition to all the scandals surrounding the now-infamous film. Phillips has done a great job of showing how disconnected he is from society and with the discovery that Glitter has a song in the film, it further illustrates that maybe Fleck wasn’t the joker – it was really Phillips.


Feature photo: DC Films

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