A bit like the rest of Canada, but not quite. A bit like France, but not quite. You could be in the Latin Quarter of Paris, but then you walk around the corner and oh, look! There’s a Tim Horton’s.
I spent two days in Montreal, and it wasn’t nearly long enough. I only had time for one poutine and one egg and bacon croissant, for starters. Most of the time was spent visiting a music cognition lab, which was pretty awesome. It’s like our lab in Sydney, only more and bigger. Their MIDI grand is massive. I did a couple experiments, including one that involved localising sounds in a dark room, which I think I failed. Possibly because I was so entranced by the size of their anechoic chamber. I also took an audiogram and learned that my hearing is better in my left ear than in my right.
But the best part was discovering that despite their lab being – quite literally – next-door to the university music faculty, they have no end of trouble recruiting musicians for their experiments. It was so nice to hear that others share in my misery. They may be one of the largest and most prestigious music labs in the world, but no one wants to participate in their research either!
From Montreal it was on to Rochester and the first of two conferences. For all that Rochester is only a ninety minute drive from where I grew up, I’d never really been before. My first shock came from realising how beautiful the downtown area is. I’d always assumed it was more like Buffalo, with abandoned warehouses straddling rows of vacant apartment buildings. My second shock came the first morning, as I set out from my hotel towards the Eastman School of Music, where the conference was being held, and discovered an Anchor Bar just across the street. Shock turned to glee as I remembered that the university was footing my food bill for conference days, and glee later turned to bliss as I dug into my first Buffalo chicken wings in over two years.
Attending conferences as a lowly doctoral student is a lot like how I imagine being a newbie on a major movie set would be. There’s lots of huddling up with the other students and whispering, “There goes Bigname McFamouspants of the seminal paper on Dynamic Attending Theory!” Or announcing in tones of great pride, “I just spoke with Professor Threehundredpublications about my new paradigm, and she really liked it.” Was I ever excited at the end of the day, when I could finally curl up in my king-sized bed and fall asleep while flipping through the 80-odd channels on my TV. And not just because sleeping in a bed and having a TV are novelties for me, though they are, and let’s be honest, they’re pretty exciting novelties.
Sunday marked the half-way point on my trip. The next stop would be Buffalo!