Listen to Soundscapes from Home10/28/2020
Nature and civilization create our soundtracks.
By Melissa Kirsch
Welcome. I wrote a few weeks ago about the sounds of pigeons undertaking their vigorous morning drills, their wings slapping against my windows. It’s easy, when we’re caught up in a day’s worth of doing and getting done, to ignore the soundtrack that’s always accompanying us, whether furnished by nature or by civilization.
So many of you sent recordings of the soundscapes where you are, and we’ve collected some of them in an album of sorts, a series of audio diaries that allow you, for just a few moments, to experience the sonic geography of someplace else. Have a listen, and let us know what you think.
It was transporting, too, to read soundscape descriptions you sent in: For every person delighting to an avian chorus, there was another bedeviled by a brain-rattling jack hammer. One reader wrote of hearing only tinnitus where she knows the birds should be. Carl L. Jacobs remembered living once in Navy housing directly underneath the flight path of P-3 aircraft, but now, retired and dwelling amid the natural resources of Aiea, Hawaii, he hears “only six different breeds of birds talking to each other.”
Candace Carlson hears “the bangs and clangs and clicketyclack” of an engine depositing rail cars outside her window in Minneapolis. In the rainy season in the Chiriquì province in Panama, Rosie Crofutt hears wrens and motmots whooping it up, the busy sounds of parrots, hunting insects and howler monkeys.
In Seattle, Kim Gordon hears the garbage, recycling and food waste trucks all taking their 4:30 a.m. turns. In Calgary, Sheila Bean notices the occasional coyote “burst into a few moments of excited yipping.” On her family farm in Central Michigan, Glenda Warner perceives “just insect sounds, and maybe the sound of a distant fly flying by me.”
Shravani Rao hears “vacuums cleaning, babies crying, toilets flushing, beds creaking, footsteps and murmurs overhead and to the sides there are ringing landlines and one-sided conversations and we can only imagine what causes the laughter, the soliloquy of a dog barking somewhere blends with melancholy notes of R.E.M. playing on someone’s Alexa.”
Judy Martinez-Ross can’t escape a cacophony of “ear-shattering vehicles” in the desert hills of Moab, Utah: motorbikes screeching, A.T.V.s, and four-wheelers roaring their engines. In the Indiana woods, Larry D. Sweazy hears indigo buntings singing shyly, “the soothing trill of a hermit thrush or a migrating warbler offering a brief goodbye.” And Shary Grossman is hearing the sounds of sirens, car horns and construction, the rumbling of Metro-North trains, music blaring and tempers flaring outside her home in Manhattan.
Physically traveling to another place isn’t an option for most us right now, so listening to and imagining these sound diaries provides a little escape, at least for a moment. Thanks to everyone who sent theirs in.
If you’re up for further audio diversion, I’ve been appreciating Son Lux lately; their song “Dream State” has been residing in my brain since I first encountered it as the theme to HBO’s “The Vow.” This smart article from Vox, “What Was Fun?,” describes a difficult-to-articulate byproduct of quarantine. And I got lost in the strange 3-D tour of “The House on Blue Lick Road.” If you’ve been yearning to visit a haunted manor this Halloween, it should do the trick.
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How to deal
Recent graduates usually have to start repaying student loans in November, but because of the pandemic, payments on most federal loans have been suspended until January. We have answers to other questions you may have about loan repayment.
See how New York City buildings are scrambling to make elevators feel safer.
And please do not FedEx your ballot — regardless of what Lady Gaga posts on Instagram.
What to eat
If you’re a crust person, Melissa Clark has a galette recipe for you.
“Always double or triple any sauce you make,” advises Yotam Ottolenghi, “so half of it can be sent on its way into the fridge or freezer.” His roasted pepper sauce is one you’ll want to keep on hand, to serve with a couscous cake or other grains.
And we have recipes for roasting, puréeing and baking with pumpkin.
How to pass the time
Watch “Song Exploder” on Netflix, wherein musicians discuss how they conceived of and recorded one song.
See former churches that are being repurposed as alternate gathering spaces: a nightclub, a cafe, a fraternity house and more.
And check out our guide to choosing the perfect Agatha Christie novel.
Like what you see?
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