“Exploring the Acoustic Environment of the Montreal Metro by Doing the ‘Dou-Dou-Dou’”

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Journal Article
Social Alternatives, 2014, 33 (1), pp. 44 - 51
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The ‘dou-dou-dou’ is the signal heard as train doors on the Montreal Metro close. It was developed by the STM (Société de transport de Montréal) in 2010 as a way to prevent service delays as well as promote safety within the subway environment (namely to prevent commuters getting stuck between doors and to stop fellow passengers pushing each other). Although only a relatively small sequence in the overall acoustic environment of the Metro, the three tones of the ‘dou-dou-dou’ are important in creating a particular type of social space. This article explores the development of this unique part of the acoustic ecology of the Montreal metro system, comparing the STM’s publicity material about the development of the signal with key musical and cultural studies frameworks relating to power and affect. The focus is on the ‘dou-dou-dou’ as a method of sonic management within the metro environment, exploring the flows of power between commuters and officials within the space. In addition to being a pragmatic ‘audio signal’ to direct commuter traffic, we propose that the ‘dou-dou-dou’, with its specific composition and instrumentation, can be understood as more than just a musical marker of place in the broader historical and cultural audio environment of the metro.
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