Sounds of the Wellington Tunnel

I’m here in Montreal studying ruins, including their histories and the often-unsanctioned things that happen inside them.  And since I took a radio production workshop that tasked me with recording ambient sounds from somewhere out in the world, I decided to head down to the old, abandoned Wellington Tunnel with my audio recorder. 

Built in the 1930′s, the tunnel began as a route for cars under the Lachine Canal.  After a bridge replaced it in the 1990′s, it became a graffiti gallery.

graffiti, wellington tunnel

Photo by Pierre-Alexandre Garneau. Used under Creative Commons license.

My husband Erik and I arrived at the tunnel after dark only to find its front gates locked.  Just as we were about to give up, we heard voices from deep inside.  I shouted “Hellooooooooo!” and received a wolfen whoop in response.

It turned out that a group of artists was preparing for a performance in the tunnel.  They invited us to come back in an hour for their show.

Not knowing what to expect, we returned to join a number of other people at the tunnel’s mouth.  When a low tone droned from the opposite end, someone whispered, “Follow the sound!” and we processed together into the darkness.  Finally we reached a dead end, where blinking lightbulbs illuminated 20 minutes of dreamlike and erie music featuring a French horn, clanking metal things (a la Einstürzende Neubauten), and layers of electronic loops.

My camera phone failed to do the event justice:

But of course, I also recorded audio.  So enjoy some sounds!

After the show we met some of the others present, including a woman who wore moon boots, a polka dot jumpsuit swathed in electronics, and a helmet topped with an antenna.  She explained she had broadcast the performance using the antenna as an FM transmitter.

wellington tunnel exterior

Photo by Bob August. Used under Creative Commons license.

When the powers that be give up on a place, it opens up a pocket of relative anarchy where anything can happen. And that evening, what happened was a DIY noise-art spectacular.

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