The note quavered in the still air. Vibrations. Listen to the vibrations. I drew in another sharp breath, exhaled the note - still quavering.
Then, it was met with another note, both quavering in the wind - together. And their enjoinment in the air was resonating vibrations through my body. I was listening to their meeting.
The person across from me was a complete stranger. I had just met him ten minutes ago. Yet, there was something incredibly vulnerable about both of releasing notes into expanse that were now co-mingling to produce harmony.
I was in a vocal improvisation workshop at Le Milieu. Having graduated with a Masters in Music Education, Geremia now holds workshops like the one I was attending for both kids and adults alike. This passion project was a side effect of his Masters research project on listening and the body, he told me later.
During his Masters, he studied artists such as Pauline Oliveros, the founder of the deep listening movement who believed that all sounds in the environment have an impact on the body, as well as Meredith Monk, a choreographer-turned-composer who now uses body movements to gain inspiration for her compositions. Their work is based on the concept that our body stores emotional memory. These memories can be evoked with movement and expressed with music.
Wanting to create an environment in which people can express themselves freely through music and movement, Geremia created a series of workshops which he piloted in Forward House, a refuge for mentally fragile adults, and in Nunavik, where he taught body percussion to Inuit teenagers.
Now, he is based in Montreal with the hope of creating more of these spaces of creativity and expression. The workshop had us paired up, singing responsively in long drawn-out notes while listening to each other’s vibrations. We then sat around in a circle, playing a word game where we were to say the first four words that came to our mind, a sort of releasing of the verbal sub-conscious. Finally, we played “Silent Rhythms”, an activity Geremia had created himself, where we made sounds to accompany the improvised movements of the “actor”.
By the end of the workshop, the participants were laughing, both at and in spite of ourselves, as we continued to improvise sounds to the movements of cleaning up the space. We had become friends, unwittingly.
"We can tell something about [ourselves] by the way we respond to someone’s question - music is like that. Someone puts out a musical idea, and you have to find something in yourself…I have to adapt to your music idea…indirectly absorbing your otherness,” Geremia explained.
Vivienne Tam started volunteering regularly at Le Milieu when she moved to Montreal in September 2017 for her graduate studies. She loves experimenting in the kitchen and has brought her love for cooking to the Coop through making food for its vegan cafe. In her free time, she writes at beautyinthemargins.com and plans for her next adventures travelling, cooking and cafe-exploring.