Listening in the Library

At the end of my residency, I listened – and recorded a conversation about listening – in the library. After limited access to library spaces during this pandemic year, I was thankful to be able to visit Concordia’s Vanier Library. There will be more unofficial explorations of listening in the library, but this one marks the official end of my year as Researcher-in-Resident at Concordia’s Library.

Klara du Plessis (left) and Katherine McLeod (right) recording in Special Collections, Vanier Library.

In a quiet room in Special Collections, I recorded a conversation with poet and PhD student Klara du Plessis. Our conversation was about a 1978 recording of Montreal-based poet Carole Ten Brink. The recording is part of the Véhicule Art (Montreal) Inc. fonds held in Special Collections at Concordia’s Vanier Library and as part of SpokenWeb’s audio collections. As an RA with SpokenWeb, Klara had generated the metadata for these Véhicule recordings, along with listening to them for her dissertation. During this past winter, Klara and I realized that the Carole Ten Brink recording had caught her attention as well as mine. We were first struck by the way in which Carole Ten Brink introduced her poems and then by the ways in which our feminist listening to the archive uncovered more about the reading itself and its place within the collection. Over these past months, Klara and I have been talking about this recording while walking in the snow, on Zoom, over coffees – and finally with the original reel-to-reel tape from 1978 sitting on the table and listening to us.

But how to capture all that moved us to talk about the recording? We did it – or, rather, we managed to capture one version of it, and we ourselves know all of the unrecorded thoughts that led to those words.

Stay tuned to find out how to hear and/or read what we said. And, while this may be the official end of the residency, listening to the library continues – here on this blog and throughout future research.

What comes next for Listening to the Library?

I have been awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant for my project, “Literary Radio: New Methods in Audio Research.” I will be managing this research project as an affiliated researcher with the Department of English at Concordia University. I look forward to staying connected with Concordia’s Library throughout that project and throughout my work with SpokenWeb and beyond.

A recording of Carole Ten Brink and Janet Kask reading at Véhicule Art Gallery (Montreal) on March 5, 1978.
Thanks to Ellen Gressling and Alexandra Mills for helping to make possible this visit to Special Collections. Thank you to all of the faculty and staff at Concordia’s Library for welcoming me into the library and all of its sounds, and thank you to Concordia University for supporting this innovative research position.

Dr. Katherine McLeod is Concordia Library’s Researcher-in-Residence 2020-2021. Her project Listening to the Library is an exploration of the library as sound. She is writing a book that is a feminist listening to recordings of women poets on CBC radio. She has co-edited the collection CanLit Across Media: Unarchiving the Literary Event (with Jason Camlot, MQUP 2019), and she produces the monthly series ShortCuts for The SpokenWeb Podcast.

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