A Community Attuned to the Outside. Reverberations of the Montreal Balcony Drone

Hubert Gendron-Blais

This World is Not My Home

(Sun Ra) 


If we refrain from questioning the validity of the political structures that guarantee our ‘safety’ within the discourse of the home, we are blinded to the ways in which the home mirrors the politics of state-sovereignty, offering protection from the outside by condoning an ethics of exclusionary violence on the inside. We must therefore develop an awareness that, as we mortgage our lives and construct fences and walls, install security systems and guard dogs, we are offering unwavering support to a vocabulary that is at the heart of the imaginary of the nation. (Erin Manning 2003: xv-xvii)


Sound art and music creation are no exception to the need to question the safety and stability associated with the home, especially when this topological notion has come to dominate the everyday lived experience of a vast number of people worldwide. What can musical practices bring to these times of mandatory confinement, when the theme of the home dominates many dimensions of existence, imposing its normative echoes – security, identity, obedience to the nation-state – on a multitude of lives on Earth? Or, to put it in another way, how can we produce sounds at home without perpetuating a valorization of appropriation, establishment, and security that excludes otherness and strangeness from our lives, without falling back into a “visceral instance of our desire for attachment and belonging” (Manning 2003: xvii)? This essay offers an exploration of paths that lead away from this conception of the home, luring the thinking through one inspiring initiative that emerged during these difficult times: the Montreal Balcony Drone. This case of collective music practice will be approached through a research-creation perspective,[1] paying particular attention to the affective resonances it generates. The balcony drone performances brought a certain strangeness to the experience of the confinement, drawing attention to what vibrates beneath familiar forms, inviting to a relation with the ineffable intensity that cannot be enclosed, which can be associated to the concept of the Outside[2] initiated by author and philosopher Maurice Blanchot. These conceptual layers should allow for an original analysis of the political potential of collective music practices in the context of the pandemic’s imposed confinement – which can be defined as a forced territorialization into the home. Against the expansion of the reign of the homely, this study of an original sonic initiative attempts to think of ways for music practices to contribute toward unsettling desires for property, closure, and security that are taking epidemic proportions in our time.