An island of harmony between two busy roads

April 28, 2011

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A heavily-travelled roadway. Pedestrians. Buses. Coming and going. And also swings, swings that instantly carry you into a parallel universe! That's how I felt, at least, when I experienced the 21 BALANÇOIRES, the collective instrument installed along the Promenade des Artistes in the Quartier des spectacles until May 23.

By Marie-Pierre Bouchard
On my arrival, I spent a long moment observing the people at play. Some were intrigued, having found it at random. Others looked like they had made a special journey to come try the installation. Immediately, I felt a sort of excitement in the air, a frank and playful curiosity. Some swung in groups of three, others alone. The pretty sounds, which varied depending on the action of the swings, held an immediate power of attraction for me. I couldn't resist the urge to try them!


Photo credit | Martine Doyon
I started out timidly, in a section where nobody else was swinging. I hesitantly made my first move, sitting down on a green swing and causing marvelously clear piano tones to ring out. Then, like a child discovering a new toy, I wanted to know what other instruments matched up with the other colours in my trio of swings. Blue: guitar. Orange: vibraphone. They sounded clear notes, pleasant to the ear, that varied with the pace of my swing. Delighted by my solo foray, I quickly left my section to join a nearby woman swinging by herself. Watching as she swung, I tried to adapt to her rhythm to generate a sweet melody. But as she carried on swinging to her own metronome, the sounds began to clash. A man took his place on the third swing in our section, and he too swung with abandon, taking our trio into a strange cacaphony. It wasn't at all unpleasant, but we obviously had some room for improvement.

Suddenly I understood that the key idea here -- cooperation -- meant communication. So I spoke up: "Hey, do you guys want to try coordinating our swings? We might be able to produce a really nice tune!" It didn't take more than that for us, three individuals who had never laid eyes on each other before, to instantly become a team. And the results were magical! We swung and tarried for a fair fifteen minutes. In harmony and sweet complicity, we generated a real pleasure, a communicative euphoria. Amused passersby stopped to watch us, to listen to the music that we swung into the air without concealing our glee.


Photo credit | Martine Doyon
In front of us lay Place des Arts; behind us, a ray of sunshine cut across the red roof of the St. John the Evangelist church. The sound of the traffic subsided, veiled behind the notes of our serenade.