The Ghost Variations – Featured Spaces 1

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Over each of the following four weeks, we will examine in detail two spaces we focused on for the walking tour. The first two walking spaces we work with on our walking tour are both found in the Hart House Building. The first is the library and the second are its corridors.

The Hart House library is a relatively small one as far as libraries go. More a study area than anything else, it’s usually fairly busy during business hours, and quieter (but not closed) on evenings and weekends. Our recording was made on a typical weekday, when there was average activity. We ambled throughout the space, and sat if we liked. In a library setting, one is more aware of sounds in the space than in other locations, as loud noises may disrupt other people. The function of the space dictated the way we moved through it. In the library, we stepped quietly through its various nooks and crannies, often hugging the walls and bookshelves to avoid drawing attention. In the original, unedited Variation 1 one hears the transition from the noisy corridor as the recorder-walker steps into the library. Even within the library, the buffered echo of loud conversations in the Hart House hallways remains. In the library itself, one can hear pages turning, a computer typing, general shuffling, and the floor creaking. One also hears a car running, another backing up, as well as the sound of sirens, confusing the inside and outside spaces. In Variation 3, cars passing (recorded from the walk from Knox College to Fisher Library) are included, and further add to the confusion. Variation 1 also includes a student sneezing twice, which we would later use as an artificial indicator for the end of each track. In Variation 3 of the space, one hears the library’s radiator, though it was taken from a separate recording, intermixing the two walkers’ physical journeys.

Stepping out into our second space, the Hart House corridors, we noted the liminal space in-between the library’s quietness and the noise of the corridors. The doorway transitions us from one noise quality and level to another. The corridors in Hart House are quite sonorous, as sound easily echoes back and forth along the stone walls. This can make it quite loud in contrast to the peaceful library setting – unless it is a quiet day, in which case the quietest sounds can reverberate far throughout the building. On the day of the initial recording, the hallways were generally quite busy, but there were quieter areas. In contrast to the library, voices are much more present in the spaces, which aren’t governed by rules of silence. One also hears general bangs and thuds, as well as the clinking of plates as the recorder-walker passes a restaurant. Again, sirens can be heard in the distance. There is also a quieter moment, as the walker enters a small chapel within Hart House – another area with designated lower volume levels. Towards the end of the track, one can hear a phone ringing and various footsteps. There are also snippets of a conversation, which can make one conjure the speaker’s face, and perhaps even the beginnings of a narrative. At the end of the track, one can hear the sound of recorded wind, as the walker approaches another liminal space – the entrance to Hart House. In Variation 3 of the Hart House corridors, we deliberately played with volume levels, making one question whether the volume of a space was actually getting quieter. There is also repeated laughter, to evoke a sense of deja-vu in the listener, who must guess whether they are two distinct instances, or whether one is a flashback (or flashforward) to the ghost of another. An excerpt of piano music from the Knox Chapel is played, bringing in the ghostly presence of other spaces. Similarly, an artificially placed “Oh, Sorry!” and the sound of birds makes the listener conjure beings from other spaces. In editing the minute details for the tracks, we recollected some of Philip Glass’ works, in which sometimes only through acute listening can one distinguish changes in each variation.

 

Hart House Library – Variation 1

Hart House Library – Variation 3

Hart House Corridors – Variation 1

Hart House Corridors – Variation 3

 

 

Hart House Library
Audio Helps Conjure the Ghosts of Student Bodies in an Otherwise Empty Hart House Library

 

A 2nd Floor Hart House Corridor on a Quiet Day
A 2nd Floor Hart House Corridor on a Quiet Day