Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Music of Sounds

My little Hun is quite organized, and this follows through to her sleep habits. At about 10:10 or so she goes through about a minute and a half of ritual, rolls over and boom, she's gone. I've no clue how people do this, but that's not the point of the present narrative.

As I said, she's down deep in no time, and I can go in and out of the room with little effect on her state. But this is what I find really strange. If I leave the door open a crack, and any light invades the bedroom, invariably she will wake up within five minutes, get up and close it.

We have this high tech fan in the room, a remote control job that oscillates, simulates surf, goes asleep, etc. In oscillating mode, just at the limit as the fan begins to reverse, there is this tiny plastic on plastic scrape. I have tried, I cannot sleep with this sound. Off it goes as my reaction to this nearly inaudible nuisance brings a barely perceptible shrug to the vamp(ire) wrapped in folds of utter darkness beside me.

I'm an aural person, an admission that's always good for a little snicker at a party. One day I had on a Discovery Channel hi-def and stereo presentation of a sunrise at Yosemite. It was pretty, no doubt, but after ten minutes I just closed my eyes and listened to the birds. At 6:15 this morning I was on the golf course, alone, with just the sounds of distant mowers, sprinklers and the birds. It looked the same as later in the day, but it just sounded so much better!

I came across a discussion on Fodor's travel site, people listing things seen in their travels that have simply made their jaws drop. I began to think to myself, "What about the places they have heard?"

Of course, a few favorites come to mind.

  • The surf. When I close my eyes to remember the sound of the surf I find myself on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This rolling surf is hypnotic in its apparent constancy, yet there is a subtle variation that fascinates the close listener, as no two waves hit the beach exactly the same. There are more exciting locales for surf. In Marblehead, Big Sur and such places the waves strike the rocks with percussive force one feels in the chest. These are fun to visit, but the rollers beg one to stay.
  • About midnight in the white pine forests of "up north". The whisper of the breezes through these trees is like no other, and one is surely to imagine the spirits of the ancients about. Toss in the hoots of the owls, a few coyotes, bullfrogs, and a far-off loon. Mix this all with the slow crackle of a dying campfire and one begins to grasp the world we left behind. If a loon gets too close, however, grand comedy replaces reflection.
  • If one camps just the right distance from a rushing steam or waterfall (or perhaps in Steven King's Maine backyard), a decent mix of the above two can be had.
  • Downtown. For me this is the Loop in Chicago. Sirens and cab horns and marching, charging feet. Planes and choppers overhead and the rush of the wind through the canyons. Jackhammers and somewhere progress measured in the tick tock of a pile driver. Here and there bits of music and wander over toward the Daley Center and maybe a crowd, a speech, chants or oohing and aahing to some derring-do of a street performer. Drums and saxophones under the el as an approaching train crescendos to a mighty roar above. Up the Mile with the posh and the whistles of the doormen reverberate with those of the traffic cops while the hacks meander along the side streets with clip clop anachronism. Intoxicating. Relentless.
  • This one is a far less obvious choice, but one I can remember quite vividly. On a hitchhiking trip along 'bout ' 74 or so, I spent the night under a billboard alongside a bridge over the Ohio River. On this close, humid night one could hear everything on the river. I stayed awake nearly the entire night listening to the barges, tugs and bargemen I couldn't see. I could hear the men call out, perhaps because of the haze there was more communication needed. I could hear the groan of the barges and the efforts of the tugs, interspersed with the occasional truck disappearing across the bridge.
  • Lying in the hammock garden next to the aviary at The Enchanted Garden―an unusual and defunct resort in the hills above Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This is as close to a tropical rain forest as I have been, and the conversation of these birds at six in the morning was astonishing.

I could go on but I think the point is made here that although it is rarely celebrated, the sound of a thing may be just as enthralling as the sight of it or another thing. I might ask in a discussion group, "What places have you heard that made your eyes close in wonder?"


At 8:21 PM, Blogger Bullock said...

What sounds do I love? You been to the Actor's Studio or something.?
OK, here goes:
--Music harmonics. Surprised you didn't weigh in here.I don't make much music sounds anymore. But when I did, and the harmonies were just right, tuned and balanced, the vibrations and air columns would flow right thru and over you like a wave. Other people's music recordings do that too but it is not the same as when you originate it.
--Ocean surf. Who doesn't like this? I live 8 miles as the crow flies from it and maybe hear it up close 2-3 times a year. Got one of those night sound boxes, too, so can hear it anytime.
---Outdoor night-time sounds; twilite, midnight, pre-dawn are favorite times just about anywhere except cities/towns with man-made noises, which doesn't do it for me.Gimmee those gurgling, rushing creeks and streams. Raptors overhead with their shrill cries. Even the seldom-seen rattler:I have seen 4 and heard 2 in the last 18 months.Keep your eyes open here!
---Child sounds. Kinda quiet round the house with our 2 young'ins grown and gone. Few things keep me awake,except a little plaintive voice. Otherwise,like your partner, my head hits the pillow and the moon dreams begin."Irby at bat, 3-2 count,here's the pitch. Crack! Back, back--hey hey!" The Wrigley crowd roars...

Once on a winter Boy Scout outing in the high desert, three of us adult male leaders were just getting snug in our bags, anticipating a 30 degree or so brisk night, when came a tap on the tent door. Then another.No sound. Then another.I'm the only one awake, I think.Finally a voice whispered, DAD!? Three bodies jacknifed up as one and responded in unison, "Yes?".
It is MY son, so it is MY turn to roll out into the cold,clear night to remedy and tend to the situation.
Tip: don't feed or allow sugary chocolate pudding late in the evening to 11-12 year old boys. Or it may come back up...

Glad I didn't hear that.Would have closed my eyes for sure.

At 8:32 PM, Blogger sequoit said...

Childrens' sounds. Like being five hundred yards or so from recess at a grade school. That's a big favorite.


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