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With Ville orchestre, everyone's an artist

April 28, 2022

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With the return of spring and warmer weather, the city is coming out of hibernation! On the Promenade des Artistes, you’ll find Ville orchestre, a fun new interactive musical installation that’s taking over from the iconic 21 Balançoires/21 Swings. The new piece, by Robocut Studio, Dpt. and Vallée Duhamel, invites passers-by to try their hand at being musicians and, either alone or in a group, create new tunes by playing with four interactive stations.

We spoke with creators Julien Vallée, Philippe Savard and Nicolas S. Roy as well as musical director David Drury to learn more about the original experience they’re offering.

WHAT WAS ON YOUR MINDS WHEN YOU DECIDED TO JOIN FORCES TO DEVELOP THIS ORIGINAL WORK?

Julien Vallée: Let’s just say the call for proposals inspired all of us. We already knew each other – and some of us had already worked together – and we wanted to get together to develop something none of us could have done alone.

Nicolas S. Roy: It’s worth mentioning that the previous installation, 21 Balançoires/21 Swings, was a huge success. So, from the start we felt the immense pressure that is to be expected when your task is to replace such a prominent Montreal icon. Our proposal had to be equally compelling – if not more. From the beginning, we told ourselves: let’s not go in a completely different direction, let’s keep it playful and simple while still coming up with something new.

DID YOU HAVE TO OVERCOME ANY SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES?

J.V.: It soon became clear that the project was more complex than we expected. I should note that we’re used to developing indoor installations that people aren’t even allowed to touch. Suddenly, we had to think about passers-by who would interact with the work, about bad weather, about the different vibe at different times of day…

Philippe Savard: We definitely had to take the outdoor setting into account, because it’s completely unlike the comfort of a museum. On the Promenade des Artistes, you don’t have any control over the size of the crowd or the weather. Public space affects everything from the materials you choose to the type of experience you can create.

WHAT IS THE MAIN INTENT BEHIND VILLE ORCHESTRE?

N.R.: The installation is located on the Promenade des Artistes, and the first name that came to mind was The Artists’ Playground. From the start, we wanted people to become artists, composers, when they interacted with the work. Our intention was to entice people to stop being passive spectators and create something new. That initial concept eventually evolved into Ville orchestre. We were also inspired by the controlled chaos of the one-man-band, who, loaded up with all kinds of instruments set up in weird and wonderful ways, somehow manages to delight us with beautiful music.

ASIDE FROM THE ONE-MAN-BAND, THE INSTALLATION ALSO EVOKES FRIENDSHIP AND THE PLEASURE OF PLAYING TOGETHER.

David Drury: Yes, and it’s all tied into music. Ville orchestre consists of four stations, each one based on the possibility of playing music and interacting with others, whether they’re friends or strangers.

N.R.: The four stations are complementary, and each one is very different from the others in terms of the type of interaction involved: voice, feet, hands. They aren’t really sequential, because each one is independent. People can discover them gradually, over multiple visits, and appreciate the many possibilities for musical interaction that they offer.

J.V.: I think Ville orchestre will encourage people to interact with each other. You just have to share a station with someone you don’t know, and, without even looking at each other, you’ll already feel like you’re creating something together. People will immediately want to laugh and try to collaborate. I think everyone needs something like this after two years of the pandemic…

FINALLY, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THE PUBLIC TO TAKE AWAY FROM VILLE ORCHESTRE?

N.R.: This installation is for anyone who’s looking to lighten the mood. Its purpose is to make people smile and encourage them to reconnect with each other.

P.S.: Exactly! We were all isolated for a long time, and we want to get back out there and see people. In that sense, Ville orchestre is just what the doctor ordered!

D.R.: I’ll close with a musical idea, in keeping with the theme of the installation. To me, “unexpected harmonies” is a good way to sum up the experience of Ville orchestre: creating unexpected harmonies between people from all over the city. Because music doesn’t just soothe us, it brings us together!

Ville orchestre
Everyday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
On the Promenade des Artistes

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