CANADA'S FIRST MUSICAL AUDIOGUIDE
ORIGINAL… AND FREE OF CHARGE
FOR A TOUR OF THE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
IN THE JEAN-NOËL DESMARAIS PAVILION
OF THE MMFA
ACCESSIBLE FOR THE FIRST TIME VIA SMART PHONES AND TABLET PCs
Visitors to the MMFA will now be able to add to the pleasure of touring the collection of European art, from Old Masters to modern art, with a new musical audioguide and commentary, which, for the first time at the Museum, may be downloaded to smart phones and tablet PCs. This musical stroll, which is also available with the traditional audioguide equipment provided free of charge by the Museum, proposes some fifty stations totalling about 100 minutes of listening enjoyment. Created by early music lecturer, author and specialist François Filiatrault with the assistance of Claude Nadon, in close collaboration with Nathalie Bondil, the Museum's Director and Chief Curator, Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Associate Chief Curator and Curator of Old Masters, and the MMFA's Education and Community Programmes Department and with the support of the Arte Musica Foundation, this original resource is provided to visitors free of charge thanks to the generosity of Hydro-Québec.
"Just as music must be heard, works of art must be seen in order to fully exist," notes Nathalie Bondil. "Reproductions are no substitute for the physical encounter with the originals. In a world where, increasingly, commonplace images are paradoxically impoverishing our experience of art, I hope this resource will promote a live culture, arousing emotions that cannot be evoked by reproductions. The Museum is the purveyor of an indispensable sensory knowledge of the world with its life-enhancing collections and multidisciplinary approach. In the cushioned comfort of our new galleries, the music stops the passage of time, so that our visitors are completely immersed in the enjoyment of the works of art."
The new audioguide offers a musical exploration of the galleries of European art. Fifty-two paintings and sculptures — portraits, genre scenes, landscapes, still lifes, religious and mythological figures and cityscapes — are each associated with a piece of music chosen in relation to the era of the work of art, the place where it was created and its cultural sphere or its specific subject. The best recordings were selected for the guide. In choosing the music, attention was paid to presenting a variety of textures and colours, ensembles and instruments, with a balance between vocal and instrumental music and sacred and secular music. While classical music dominates, songs, jazz and film music were also included. Each of these pieces of music expands and rounds off the aesthetic experience, the expression of feeling or meaning in the work or reveals another aspect of its subject. And conversely, the contemplation of the visual work enhances the appreciation of the piece of music associated with it, whether it is new or familiar to the listener.
In the context of the MMFA's partnership with the Arte Musica Foundation, the presence of music (with headphones) in the galleries has been common practice since 2009, when Director Nathalie Bondil introduced it to accompany the exhibition Van Dongen: Painting the Town Fauve and then Tiffany Glass: A Passion for Colour and J. W. Waterhouse: Garden of Enchantment in 2010. Just as for the audioguide available for Quebec and Canadian art in the new Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion, this musical, scholarly and educational stroll through the Old Masters to modern art circuit allows visitor-listeners, comfortably ensconced in our newly laidout galleries, to hear music from different eras and to take a deeper pleasure in the artworks by engaging their sense of hearing, thus enhancing the visual experience.
It is an invitation to an experience that is at once aesthetic, sensory and intellectual. Museum visitors can now "listen with their eyes" or "see with their ears" the collection of European art following a chronological circuit running from the top floor of the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion down through the three storeys: Level 4 "From the Middle Ages to the Belle Époque;" Level 3 "The Napoleon Gallery;" and Level 1 "From Daumier to Picasso." The numbering of the musical stations on the circuit is indicated by the symbol of a note of music. But fifty stations are probably too many for just one tour! Visitors are encouraged to plan or improvise their own itinerary, even if it means coming back another day...