The event that I was attending was a graduate music symposium at Montreal's McGill University, which is an English-speaking university in the Francophone province of Quebec. Flying to Quebec was nifty. Although Canada is a foreign country, it's only a two-hour flight away. But landing in Quebec where they speak another language, that really made it feel like a different country, like you got your money's worth.
First thing I did, I went and checked in at the youth hostel where I was staying. Or, should I say, the "Auberge de Jeunesse."
The Auberge was a pretty cool place. Actually, it was quite snazzy for a youth hostel -- my room had a bathroom right there instead of down the hall, and the top bunks of the beds had ladders. I definitely recommend it to people who want to stay in Montreal for cheap. I dropped my stuff off and went in search of lunch, which turned out to be the first of several tasty Asian meals. I swear, Montreal has more Asian restaurants per square foot than any place I've ever been outside of various Chinatowns.
After lunch, I looked at the map and headed for McGill. Even at the end of winter, it's a pretty place. It helped that the sun shone for most of the trip.
The conference was held at the Schulich School of Music, which has a statue of Queen Victoria out front. For some reason, I found that statue highly amusing. I guess it just highlighted the "not in America anymore" thing.
The conference itself was highly entertaining. I made lots of new friends! I was the only ethnomusicologist there -- McGill doesn't have an ethnomusicology program, and I suspect that ethnomusicology tends to slip their minds on occasion. I was presenting a paper on Bartók, and I think that they thought from my abstract that it was going to be more historical than it really was; it's very much an ethnomusicology paper, discussing Bartók in his cultural and political setting and describing his work in anthropological terms involving the phrase "cultural projects." The audience liked the paper, but I got the sense that they were kind of startled at just how ethnomusicological it was, and they really didn't seem to know what to do with it at the end -- the questions I got were extremely basic.
The other paper on the panel was a theorist dissecting a particular piece in Bartók's Mikrokosmos (a pedagogical work for piano), and the panel was called "Bartók at 128," which I guessed (correctly) meant "we got two interesting, yet entirely unrelated, abstracts about Bartók." But they liked me, I liked them, there were fun things to listen to, including a lecture-recital about a percussion piece and reports from a team of McGill students involved in an ongoing project to invent new electronic instruments and compose music for them. A good time was had by all.
After the Saturday session, we went out for dinner at a restaurant that bills itself as having the largest Indian buffet in North America. It was certainly the largest Indian buffet I've ever seen, and the food was tasty. Afterwards, I and one of my new pals went to the Upstairs jazz club, which is a place that I'd heard of before coming to Montreal, and I was thrilled to see that it was about three blocks away from the Auberge. It was Saturday night, and the band was the Brandi Disterhaft Quintet, a group that had won a JUNO, which is the Canadian version of a Grammy. We got the absolutely last table in the place. I had vodka and lychee juice, and my friend had a soda, and we enjoyed a great show. The band really earned their JUNO, especially the pianist and the percussionist. Brandi Disterhaft led the group from bass, which is not an easy task at all.
The conference wrapped up on Sunday, and then I was free to tourist around. I spent Sunday afternoon on the campus of the Montreal Jewish community (yes, that's what it's called), which is a collection of official buildings including a community center, a YWHA, a performance hall, and an administrative building that houses Montreal's Holocaust museum and its Jewish public library, both of which I visited. I shall have to return to Montreal to investigate that library further.
I considered going to a concert at a synagogue that I read about in the newspaper, except that I had no idea where the synagogue was, and no one I asked seemed to have any idea how to get to the address listed in the paper. So I just went and had dinner in the Latin Quarter instead.
Next morning, I had wanted to go to a museum where there was an exhibit on women's fashion through history, but that museum was closed on Mondays, so I went to the Redpath Natural History museum on the McGill campus instead, because, hey, dinosaurs! While I was there, I saw this sign advertising a dissertation defense. I want to have that kind of sense of humor when I finish my dissertation:
The Redpath Museum also features a twenty-foot long origami pterodactyl. Really. An origami artist came to campus, went to look at the dinosaurs, and was Inspired.
After lunch, I went to a violin workshop, but I think I'll save that for another picspam, because I took a lot of pictures of various string instruments, and this post is getting long. So, for next time: the violin workshop, Chinatown, a protest involving Sri Lanka, and some interesting street statuary.