January 17, 2013

Visitors create song at new Science Centre exhibit


---- — MONTREAL — Hear that? It’s music to your ears.

The Montreal Science Centre presents “Musik: From Sound to Emotion,” an interactive exhibition for all ages that dissects the components of a song and lets visitors create their own. 

Visitors receive a Samsung Galaxy Note mobile device and headphones, and navigate through the five essential steps to creating any song: emotion, rhythm, melodies, timbres and mixing. No worries for those who are tone deaf and have no musical acumen; Canadian band Simple Plan virtually joins guests on their creative musical journey.

The first step explores emotions. To help exhibit-goers decide, a video plays a film clip of an actor and actress driving along a winding road in a convertible. But even though the scene remains the same, guests see how changing the music changes the emotion. Before moving along, the visitor selects the emotion of their own creation. As for me, it was the weekend and I was in a pretty good mood because I found free parking in Old Montreal, so I opted for a happy tune.

Next, the beat goes on as rhythm, cadence and tempo are explored.

“Musicians are sculptors of the invisible,” the exhibit text reads. “And seemingly out of nowhere, rhythm imposes itself. The amazing power of the beat. Dignified or daring, smooth or sporadic, rhythm is always contagious, for body and soul.”

Next, I had to add a tempo to the happy emotion I selected. A fast tempo equates to happy while a slower tempo makes for a sadder song. On a scale of one to five, I chose a four.

The harmony, or melody, was next, an attribute that “shapes your musical landscape,” according to the exhibit text. These manipulations of sounds often fall into familiar genres: think hip hop, metal, punk or pop. 

Next was timbres, or musical colors, which includes any variety of instrument. A veritable symphony of instruments is on display, helping visitors select their composition’s orchestra. 

Finally, guests need to do a little mixing to put the whole musical concoction together.

Upon completion of all five steps, the musician gets to give their new song a title. I opted for “Samedi,” the French word for Saturday. 

And, yes, after it’s all said and done, visitors get to hear their composition. The Samsung Note confirms that all the proper steps have been input. Participants then add their email address, and by the time they get home, voila — their song is waiting for them online.

So how does “Samedi” sound? My upbeat creation — complete with guitar, keyboard and xylophone — reminded me of being on my way to the circus. Good enough for now, but with a little practice, I’ll see you at the next Grammy Awards!

Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at

IF YOU GO WHAT: "Musik: From Sound to Emotion." WHEN: Continues through March 10. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. WHERE: The Montreal Science Centre is at the King Edward Pier in the Old Port, Montreal. ADMISSION: $11.50 for adults, $10.50 for seniors and teens 13 to 17, $8.50 for children 4 to 12, and $36.50 for a family of four. CONTACT: For more information, call (514) 496-4724 or visit