Posts Tagged ‘sound’

The noise, oh the noise, noise, noise. no i am not the grinch above whoville on christmas eve. But that is the way i often feel. and it is not the noise of laughter or merry-making that makes me want to hide my head away, but of the machines, the machines, called cars and trucks, that penetrate the soundscape.

I climb up high, but still i hear the dull roar beneath. I walk the paths, beside the river, but in the narrow canyon, that too, is the locale of the highway, the one that runs from east to west. the town is at the confluence of roads and rivers, and the second highway runs through the center, is the busy four-lane main street, and that is where i stay. the traffic that moves along, heaviest in the morning and evening as the workers make their commute up valley, but it is ever-present, and i feel it. I hear it, and feel the vibrations almost everywhere, i cannot hide, earplugs will not do, for i feel it in my cells and bones. This is it.

I had wanted a quiet mountain town, the ones that exist in the imagination – so it seems. I have stopped in Glenwood Springs, CO and the place is anything but quiet. And i should have known as i looked at the map and saw the roads around, something that had occurred to me before, and i had not come here, but something i ignored this time around.

I wake up to the roar as commuters drive alone, each in their individual vehicle, creating this soundscape. In the evening, i sit out front on the porch with another, and we must yell so that our voices are heard; conversation becomes difficult. I go to the hotsprings, but it is there too. The river, where the birds can be heard, and for a moment i am away, not completely, but still. I walk up a trail, views below, of the town and the roads, but also of the mountains, and i imagine what it was like before. In the supermarket the hum disappears; it is set back a bit, a well constructed solid building with musak playing inside. But where i stay, an old wooden home, it is loud – and the home feels it too, foundations cracked and more. And the noise penetrates my foundations, cracking them, vibrating inside.

This is the sound of our lives – machine, motors hum; tires over concrete, there is often no escape from the noise pollution that penetrates our lives. I have sought to escape, but find myself back here. I have travelled cities and byroads of the country, see sub-divisions built along the highways, highways so large they make these look like country roads. Walls as sound barriers build along side, but they do not stop the dull roar, perhaps contain it a bit. But it is there.

I noticed it when i arrived and got off the train. But then it stopped, or slowed. An accident on the main highway, the I-70, and the cars were ‘parked’ and many could not enter town, or turn onto the highway upvalley. But it is here, and louder and more pervasive than i

Get used to it – i hear. perhaps i have been lucky to hear the silence, or the sounds of nature, calming and uplifting to the spirit – the roar of the ocean is different, as is the rush of a stream or river. The calls of animals and birds, even crows, is not at metallic as this – the machines take over. yes, earplugs shut it out, but they shut out all if they work, the beauty as well, and i do not want to make myself deaf. I could the ipod, the tv, the sounds that enter in, a sound healing or noise pollution, but headphones on the street further to the disconnection.  And in putting up sound walls, we all become disconnected, and continue to create this, pretend it is not there.

I pull in and withdraw, as i do when i walk down busy streets, where the main noise if of cars, not stopping, no ebb and flow, but continuing. Where the sounds of other life are muted or drowned out. And that is the key, the other sounds are mainly absent and the din dominates all.

 My body tenses, and i feel it. i feel the vibrations, it is not merely through the ears; it is through the whole body. And it scrambles me, and i feel like i have entered a fishbowl in hell. And there are fewer and fewer places to get away.

Perhaps it is louder here, and it is not just my imagination. Just as valleys can become containers for air pollution, perhaps they can become containers for sound, the waves bouncing back off the mountain walls, reverberating, not dissipating, forming a field of their own. With the thinner air at this elevation, perhaps they travel faster and penetrate with greater ease.

The quiet small town i imagined, is anything but quiet, and so many places are like this. I think of a walk in the redwoods, above Santa Cruz, or camping on the oregon coast the traffic that i heard, the traffic that the trees and birds and plants felt. I remember the cities of Mexico and Central America where the traffic took over, and i quickly became scrambled. I think of other towns, Eugene comes to mind, and large cities, where the highways cut through, and you cannot get away.

What does it do to us?  In the beginning was the word. What is the vibration of the “words” we have created, those of the car age. When we encase ourselves in them, turn on the music, we blot it out, unaware of what we emit. but it is here – all – pervasive so it seems. So many studies of noise pollution, but we often overlook the all-pervasive din. Sound has the ability to heal and harm, and what is this background noise of our lives? How to change it – or is escape the only answer? And how to remove myself without a car and adding to the din?

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i walked in the forest where all was quiet and noticed the sounds that came through the silence. In the quietude you hear so much more – the sounds that are welcome – the chirps of birds and the flow of the river and the step of your feet – and those which intrude – the cars passing by on the road above, rubber on concrete and the hum of motors. and in the quiet you also are more aware of the sounds inside, the chattering away of your mind – the joys and awareness and those other voices of discontent, nagging emotions and unresolved issues that come to fore – they are louder too and so often we try to bury them beneath or block them out with external noise.

I have been in a room where all is loud, and i often do not hear myself think. I listen through the walls to conversations, the radio, the washer and dryer, the bathroom fan, and the coffee grinder early in the morning. I block it with headphones and meditation music and have discovered healing sounds on the web. all who have read this know i am ultrasensitive to sound. And I wonder as i compare the healing music versus that which plays now with its heavy grating beat, what vibrations does all sound causes inside be it the background hum of our lives, or the tapes that play in our heads of which we are unaware. And i came to realize how the everyday sounds are no longer noticed, yet when we leave them behind, how much a part of our lives they have been. How rare it is that we truly experience the sounds of silence both inside and out.

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I sit in the field listening to songs – the songs of robins and other birds who fly and hop around. The sound is sweet to my ears, so pure and uplifting. Then a bee flies around my head with a buzz. It is so calming after the discordant cacophony of the city. Wind blows through tall douglas firs that mark the perimeter of the lawn.

I go into the woods or second growth forest around dusk and enter into the centre of a symphony in stereo sound. It is so engaging i almost feel it is played for me, but i know i am really irrelevant to the scene. Well, maybe except for the mosquitoes who buzz around my head, but they too are part of nature’s sound. I wish i knew the names of all the birds or how to write their individual sounds. It doesn’t matter anyhow, for one can still experience what one cannot name. Who says nature is quiet i ask to myself, as i immerse myself in the concert being performed.

I hear some voices and a dog bark in the distance and the occasional car pass by on the road, so i know i am not totally away from the sound of humanity. I go to bed early, just around dark, and listen to the wind blowing and the rain starting to lightly fall on the teepee i sleep in. I close my eyes to listen to the world around.

Then comes a dull roar and a screech in the sky, a heavy low growl up above. I imagine a giant bird, a monster or dragon of sorts, mouth open and gashing with pointy teeth, and arms with sharp claws. I listen and try to bury my head, but the roar continues on – all-pervasive above. It stops and starts and its sounds do vary – some louder, some softer but always with an industrial tone. For a moment, i feel like i have passed from heaven into hell. I am reminded that despite the angels’ songs and that i am on an island, i have not ventured truly away. The Sea-Tac airport is just across the water, and the planes pass over for a while. For a moment i am reminded of those nights i camped at Desolation Sound, on Whidbey Island just north of Seattle, and military planes practiced into the early evening hours, the screeches and screams and loud booms in the sky.

The next morning, I walk through the forest and stop to pause, mesmerized by the songs of the birds. A lone woman comes through on the path and asks me if i see anything. I say no i am just listening to the forest; it is so peaceful and calming after being in the middle of the city. She begins to respond, and then it comes, a roar up above, she gives a sigh and says yes, it is, some of the time.

I sit by the pond and listen again, an eagle joins into the concert, and different birds sing their songs, but then comes that noise again and for a moment drowns then all out. For a while it continues – a lower background noise – a contrast to the natural sounds around. The flying machines we humans have created emit a sound so different in vibration and tone than that of the flying creatures created by god. It makes me think about the power of sound, and wonder what we have done. With each i feel so different inside – one jangles my cells and i want to curl up and hide, and the other brings a smile to my face and i wish to dance around.

Can i block out just the noise of the planes overhead? If i wear earplugs, as so many do to sleep, then i cut out all sounds, and no longer hear the angels sing. Do i don headphones and listen to music as i walk through, but then too the angels cannot be heard, and i am so much more removed from all that surrounds. If i actively try to block the heavy industrial vibrations out, they become louder still, for my attention is there. I focus on the songs of the birds, and let the planes become background noise. Still, though i try to just let them be, i cannot be help but wonder what subtle effect they have on me, for all vibrations intertwine. But i remember the birds, and how they continue to sing so purely and sweetly beneath the roar of the sky, and i too begin to sing.

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Central America is noisy. I have known that for a while, and before i came. I should not be surprised, for i remember my trip to Mexico three years back, and i found the same thing there. Since i am ultra-sensitive to noice i find i have a hard time, and want to , at times, hide away beneath the covers – like i did for a while today. I know it is part of the culture and the fabric of life – loud music in cafes, volume turned up on tvs and stereos – it is the way that it is – a culture of extroverts – somewhat though not sure about the indegenous population, but not really a culture for us spectacle wearing introverts. And in the city it gets to me – i feel the stress bubbles in my back – the nodules that grow firm when i feel under attack. And it is not just the city, for in the country it is there – the hotels and hostels with the bars, and the nightly parties and at times drunken voices, a place to party, let loose and enjoy, and it is not just here, for back home i noticed it too, every time i would return to a city – the hum of traffic in suburbs beside the highway, frustration at neighbours who could be heard through the walls, fear of renting a room in a wooden home due to lack of soundproofing and who will live there.
And at times it makes me want to cringe, to crawl inside to disappear, or overwhelms, breathing rapid and i cannot think. Or i begin to cry, can take it no more. Once i am asleep i can blot it out, so i try to sleep. Unfortunately, another sensitive area is my ears, i dont like them touched and i cannot stand to put anything in them – earplugs or those tiny headphones to create a world of my own. And how to cope with this i do not know. And here noise is so much a part of the culture.
I prefer the chicken buses, or 2nd class in other countries, for the 1st class or delux have movies shown, volume turned up full blast. A small parade, the van with the loudspeaker in front, like those vans or trucks that drive through many a town announcing events at full blare. An evangical church next to where i stay, the singing and service so loud the walls vibrate and rather than hear the word of god, i turn away and block my ears. Turn away from the celebration and from many. A restaurant the other night, as is often the case, the tv turned up, and the talk loud, could not concentrate on what was said – and it overwhelms. The building constructed out of concrete block around a courtyard, amplifying the volume. Even at home, the background noise of a tv or popular radio station can drive me almost to tears, crowds me out. And the confusion, of many at once, the bus terminals and markets where all shout out the destinations or their wares, but it is normal and welcomed. i become overwhelmed and all becomes a single blur – a cacaphony the individual sounds not made out. Do i need a monestary, a silent retreat – and i know i am over-sensitive, and while maybe i should not be, the fact is that i am.
A place in nature – here the hostels often lively at night – fun for a while, but it overwhelms,. and is not just the visitors – on Ometepe i remember the noise from the tiny home – a step above a shack where the tv is the prized possesion, turned up full blast, speakers set out, of the 20something son, who loved the heavy music in the afternoon when i wished a siesta miles from anywhere, or the truck in santa cruz down by the dock, the locals who waited and listened to music – who am i to complain – it is louder here – or maybe in another fashion – i do not know. But even when wwoofing in Canada, my dread of those who wanted the radio as we worked in the fields – i love the sounds of nature which can be loud, rain on a tent, the wind that howls, the roar of the ocean (which at times can overwhelm like frogs on the pond).
But to work with it – to find the balance and the peace.

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What would a place be like it we came to it through our ears rather than our eyes. I stepped outside this morning and heard the birds in the trees, a plane overhead and a car horn down the street all which i could not see. Often when camping i have lay in my tent at night, in the morn, or afternoon, and closed my eyes and listened – to the coyotes howling at night, cows giving birth, the croaks and bellows of frogs in a pond, the roar of the ocean, the wind in the trees, laughter, chatter, fighting of others who may be near, and the thankful rain on my tent that could drown out the unwelcome noises. The world around was not the blue nylon that lay overhead, nor the dirty clothes strewn about, but was something more and something magical. And i would lay awake in the morning at the crack of dawn , head buried under the covers for warmth, listening to the world around me awake, the quail at first, the cows in the field, the cowbirds, the generators starting up, the occasional crunch of footsteps on the ground and then the crows. And how different it is to awaken to songbirds and quail compared to the rich cries of seagulls or the screaming of crows. In my tent where the walls were thin, i noticed and became conscious and part of the soundscape around.

But how often do we not hear, focused instead on what we can see, or on the chattering of our own minds that can drown out even the loudest roars. How often do we not listen. I closed my eyes, and listened to the background hum of the house, and the computer running, the clack of the keyboard as i type – sounds that i am often unaware of.

And we often notice sounds that interrupt – a lawn mower early on a Sunday morning, the banging, scraping, and pounding of construction nearby, a baby’s cry, a boom box car that roars by and shakes the foundations, the base on a stereo that penetrates the walls, shotguns in the woods or on the TV. Other sounds awaken you – laughter coming from a room, music in a park, a call of a bird, a loved ones voice, and you become aware and find yourself walking towards it.

But when do we become deaf to it all, to that which surrounds? I was about to add a siren on the street to the noise that interrupts, but then i remember when i lived in Manhattan years ago, or beside a fire station or hospital, and i no longer heard those sounds, or at least I never noticed them. I now go back to the suburbs and can not ignore the hum of the highway nearby that penetrates my brain at night with the rushing of wheels on concrete – noise i never used to notice. But it also think that when i lived by the ocean where its roar came in through the open window, i would cease to be aware until i went or moved away, and noticed its absence and the silence at night.

And maybe it is in the silences that we notice – the drip, drip, drip of the leaky tap at night that makes you want to scream or even the clack of keyboards as someone types. And it is in the silences that we once again hear the rustling of the leaves, and the call of birds and realize that nature is not silent at all. It just lacks the background hum. And in the silence we can hear ourselves.

And do we try to break that silence – turn on the TV, the radio, the stereo in order to cover it up. But it is never silent, there is always sound, and its power we know. Or do we?

What is the power of soundscape? We are aware of the power of music to change our mood – calm ourselves or uplift, but what do we choose to listen to? What is it that fill our minds with? I like the quiet of the early morn, and thought once again about the power of sound on the way into town one day at the crack of dawn, listening or trying not to listen to the “morning show” on the radio – harsh voices prattling on about nothing of importance, and ads that screamed to buy, silly jingles and heavy music, and i wonder just what do we fill our brains with. What is around that we tune out.

How do we listen? We are often surrounded by so many sounds that we cannot take them all in and become selectively deaf. We must choose what to take in but how do we do that? Do we block out the sounds of the world creating personal bubbles with our ipods attached to our ears – creating our own personal soundscape but cutting ourselves off from the world around. Do we focus on the background hum of a tv, or the purr of the cat who sits on our lap? The traffic that streams by or the rain on the roof? And our choices determine how we percieve not only a place but our place within that. Our sounds help create the soundscape of those around.

To not only hear, but to listen. To listen to a place – what it may tell us, whisper or shout in our ears. To be alive, not only through what we can see, but what we can hear for sound is one of the many layers of reality. And it is part of a place and part of ourselves.

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