Sound, Deindustrialization and Gentrification: The Changing Aural Landscape of
Pointe St. Charles
Muriel Luderowski is a MA student in the Art History department at Concordia University. Her thesis argues that western, post-industrial urban sites can be productively understood and interpreted through the consideration of the history and politics of urban sound, and examines the complex relationship between the postindustrial urban contexts, sound, and collective memory. She is looking specifically at the post-industrial neighborhood of Pointe St. Charles in Montreal, which development is linked to the rise of the Canadian National (CN) Railway. Today, trains continue to traverse the neighborhood and in 2013, local residents filed a complaint with CN, requesting that a sound barrier be built between Sebastopol Street and the adjacent train yards. This barrier will effectively block what is currently a breathtaking view of Montreal’s downtown skyline across the vast CN yards, which together lend a unique scale and grandeur to this site.
The sounds of trains braking and coupling have been a feature of Pointe St. Charles since 1852, and thus belong to the aural and cultural landscape of this historic, working-class district. Although CN is no longer the main employer of the current residents, train sound remains the acoustic manifestation of “place,” in that it gives the residents a sense of place and history, a recognizable signature of what is “the urban” in this given location. Ridding the neighborhood of its industrial sound will change the aural landscape of the neighborhood. The aural plays an important role in post-industrial neighborhoods in general, and the sensory experience of sound is central to interpreting the history, narrative, and changing face of the built environment of such neighborhoods.
Muriel holds a BA in Languages & Simultaneous Interpretation from the Universite catholique de Louvain, Institut Libre Marie Haps. She is a development consultant for the Mattress Factory Museum, in Pittsburgh, PA, and a docent at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.