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Le Festival Son et Image de Montréal 2004

Report By Ian White
Click Here To E-Mail Reviewer


  Ou est mon Poutine?

"I can't listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland." -- Woody Allen

As I stood in line with the thirteen other cold and miserable souls awaiting their spot on the milk-run between Toronto and Montreal, the pounding in my head from two hundred systems that I listened to three months earlier in Las Vegas reappeared. I know that G-d is still mad at me for the little stunt I pulled, but two hundred renditions of Norah Jones coming at me from all sides was way over the line.

No more "Nightingale"!!! I will do anything, just someone please get that song out of my head.

No rational person who enjoys sleep or comfort and who has found his or her "happy" place wants to take an eight-hour train ride through Mordor. Notwithstanding the charm and elegance of the female passenger sitting across from me, whose presence made the trip seem surreal (more so, because she actually talked to me) considering the dullness of my surroundings, they really need to do something about rail travel on this continent. Veronica Lake and Claudette Colbert would not be caught dead on one of these boxes with wheels.


Thinking Back On CES...

As usual, everyone played the same "listen, you can hear the bassist fart in the background" tripe passing it off as music and my fellow audio journalists told the audience how great things were. Trade shows are about as much fun as contracting a case of bird flu in a Bangkok eatery, which is no small feat let me tell you. Either that or impaling oneself on the heatsink of a Krell. Same feeling. One just kills you for a lot less.

Fortunately, Montreal has some of the better eating establishments this side of the Mississippi, making the Festival one of the few audio shows worth covering. Whoever told you that life was not really about the never ending meal, clearly has never eaten a dozen smoked meat sandwiches (and that is for those of us on a modified version of the Atkins diet... we substitute extra meat for the bread), after standing outside in the shivering cold that is Montreal.

Le Festival, to its credit, is about this crazy little thing called "music." Sure, home theater has become a very big part of the show, but Montreal still cares about music. Culture matters in Montreal, giving this city a level of genuine sophistication that does not exist in Las Vegas, and especially Toronto, which cancelled its hi-fi show. Oh, but they are building an "Opera" house in Toronto for the thirty people over seventy within the GTA who still listen to Opera. (Ian, I am not 70 and I listen to Opera and a great opera house defines a city and just because you never got any culture and you have a tin ear when anything more complex than "I'm a Barbie Girl" and....) -- Neil

Walking around the LVCC, I came to the rather disturbing realization that LG was more likely to sell thousands of their $11,000 fridge that allows bored housewives to check-out online porn while they mix little Billy's brownies, versus a company such as Fi which might in a great year sell 50 of their $1,000 "X" integrated that has managed to completely mess with my head.

Notwithstanding the obvious importance of a fridge, why would I want to check my email while deciding on that last scary looking piece of meat cake? How many live concerts could I attend for the price of that fridge? How many bass lessons with Victor Wooten could I get? How many interesting meals could I have in Montreal in four days prior to the Passover Seders?

When I first started reviewing, I scoffed at a fellow scribe when he suggested that we blow off finishing the daily show report until the morning and spend five or six hours getting lap dances at one of the finer institutions on Industrial before heading over to the In-N-Out for a double-double with fries. I didn't understand his set of priorities at all. Why would anyone pick listening to the same Patricia Barber track over a tasty burger?

Standing in line this year watching the new kid push the potatoes though the press, I figured out the real reason why we went to war in Iraq and why we must never stop fighting until Al-Qaeda is vaporized.


Lap Dances And Double-Doubles

Anyone recall where the 9-11 Hijackers were seen prior to their butchery...

In Montreal, replace double-doubles with smoked meat and poutine.

My point?

We live in scary times, so enjoy what makes you happy because in the end we should all go out devouring greasy deli while pretending to conduct or perform our favorite piece of music on whatever stereo that brings us joy on a daily basis.


One Final Observation...

Copland? Do they have a video yet on VH1?

While listening to Aaron Copland on my iPod as I shifted uncomfortably on the train, a teenage girl with numerous body piercing tapped me on the shoulder to ask what I was listening to.

"Copland," I replied.

"Cool, I really like that "Clocks" song," she shot back with a look of satisfaction that suggested she had just triumphed on Final Jeopardy.

Slightly amused but also quite perplexed I replied, "No, not Coldplay... Copland. Aaron Copland."

"Oh. Well anyway, I could hear it through your headphones and it sounded pretty cool."

"It is pretty cool stuff. Do you want to hear it?" I asked.

"Does it have lyrics?"

"Not unless I missed them. It's orchestral music and unlikely to contain a lot of vocals, if any," I explained becoming increasingly annoyed with those who feel that we need bigger and more extravagant sports stadiums in this country rather than music in the classroom.

"I'm not a big fan of that stuff. It is like classical music, which is totally boring," she replied. She shuffled her feet, thanked me for letting her know, and straggled back to giggle with her friends who were pretending to be asleep in their seats.

As I drifted back into the music and continued with some light reading from James Ellroy, I started thinking about what she had said.

Is orchestral music boring? Is classical music boring? Am I the only one who feels that retailers, in particular, treat classical music as if it carries the Ebola virus?

It is either hidden away on the fifth floor requiring a six-pack of Krispy Kremes in order to build up the energy to climb that many stairs, or you have to do the "Get Smart" thing and pass through five sets of doors before some snotty PETA coed working the register gives you the evil eye as you try to hide your new copy of Sabbath's Paranoid.

While it is certainly normal that a teenage girl would find Mozart less interesting than Justin Timberlake, has the pendulum swung so far to the dark side of the force that there is no hope that anyone under thirty will be listening to classical/jazz/blues in a couple of years? Have we completely underestimated the impact of zero funding for music in the classroom and what that will eventually mean for the audio industry? The ultimate irony is that while the quality of audio reproduction in the home has never been better, interest has never been lower. Apple sold more iPods in the past twelve months than the high-end sold CD players in the past ten years. Apple, however, is not the villain.

The high-end is the villain for promoting technology ahead of the most important thing of all.


While we adjusted, levitated, painted green borders, became obsessed with the last 3% of sound, 97% of the music went into the dumpster.

Hi-fi shows need to be more about music.

Where did they put my Pulitzer?


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3


Click here to see last year's show coverage.



































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