The Sounds I Miss

So far, I do not like UVM very much. This is partially due to external circumstances, such as the cultural differences between Vermont and New York City, and partially due to internal circumstances, such as my stubbornly nostalgic mindset that refuses to embrace change and constantly misses my old life. I face these issues on an everyday basis, and they are reflected in the sounds of my daily life.

If there is one thing I can say is better about college than high school, it is that my classes are not as early. Despite this, I still need two alarms to have any chance of waking up, and procrastination in the form of repeatedly hitting the snooze button is my first act of every weekday.

Since I am still tired, I prefer to make myself breakfast as opposed to going outside to a dining hall. This semester I usually wake up before my roommate and try to be quiet, but when I recorded the sounds of pouring and eating cereal, I realized it was not quite as quiet as I thought. I also like cereal because it represents the usual, seeing as I ate cereal almost every morning for both elementary and high school.

When I finally have to walk outside, to go to my classes for example, it is usually colder than I’d like it to be. I can only speculate that this is the reason for this next sound becoming a much more prominent part of my life, but it could also be the change in my natural environment or something else all together. Whatever the reason, I feel like I’ve had the longest cold of my life.

When I get back to my dorm, I am usually tired. One of my main sources of happiness here is listening to lively, danceable music that makes me feel good. Aside from the fact that I love this song, another likely reason it uplifts my mood is because I saw the group at a very fun on-the-beach concert with my cousins and sister in France this summer, so it brings me to a happier, more comfortable, and better time.

If I am honest with myself, I realize that listening to music is one of my main forms of avoiding overwhelming feelings brought on by the thought of homework and other daily responsibilities. In an effort to deal with this better, I have started to make To-Do lists more and more regularly to organize my thoughts work more efficiently.

Unfortunately, writing the list is often the most successful part of my day in regards to getting my work done.  Part of the reason for this is the clutter in my room. A few times per week, I make some half-hearted attempts to organize my desk before starting my work.

When I inevitably give up on this idea and once again come to the realization that my room is not conducive to working well, I often go to the library. By the time I get there it is already pretty late into the evening (9:20pm in this recording), which I don’t mind, because it is less crowded, which means less people for me to listen to and get distracted by (I don’t like the silent floors because I feel like every sound I make is way too loud).

When I don’t have homework to do, I go to the UVM Men’s Basketball games. I am a big basketball fan, and it is fun. With the lone exception of the raucous crowd showing for their nationally televised game, the games would benefit from a larger (and much younger) crowd.

As a funny symbol of my inability to embrace this university as my new home, many nights when the UVM team plays have coincided with when my beloved New York Knicks NBA team plays, and I often rush back to my dorm after the UVM game to catch the end of the Knicks game on my computer.

Due to the fact that I often work late into the night in the library or watch basketball games, and I always ate dinner late back home, I take full advantage of the late night dining services provided at Harris-Millis. I usually go alone, but the fact that its so late and pretty empty makes me mind less.

When describing the three listening modes, composer Michel Chion writes about causal, semantic, and reduced listening. I did not focus on semantic listening—interpreting messages through communication—for this paper because I have conversations far less often than I used to (Chion 50). While recording these sounds, and while listening back to the recordings, I was forced to focus much more on the “traits of the sound” themselves, which is reduced listening (50). However, it is causal listening, or “listening to a sound in order to gather information,” that Chion says is the most common, and this holds true for me in not so obvious ways (48). While sounds like the alarms tell me it is time to savor my last few moments of sleep, and sounds from the UVM crowd signify how lively (or not) the atmosphere is, (and are obviously examples of causal listening) much of my causal listening comes from the lack of sounds I pay attention to, which signify to me that I spend too much time alone.  When it comes down to it, I think of my time here at UVM as being characterized mostly by silence: the unhealthy amount of time spent doing nothing in my dorm room, the meals eaten alone, the work I do at the library. Seth Horowitz would argue that the reason I feel this way is because I don’t pay attention, therefore I hear without listening. After recording the sounds of these seemingly silent activities, I would have to agree with him. As I write this in my otherwise silent room, it occurs to me that I could have recorded the sound of my typing, because it is in fact quite loud. Despite the fact that I don’t live in silence, what I really miss from my past is what R. Murray Schafer would call keynote sounds and soundmarks, the sounds that made up my environment. As Schafer writes, “Noises are the sounds we have learned to ignore,” and coming to college has resulted in noise having a much larger and unwanted role in the sound of my life.

Works Cited

Chion, Michel. The Three Listening Modes.

Schafer, R. Murray. The Soundscape.

Horowitz, Seth S. The Science and Art of Listening.



New study: Love of musical harmony is not nature but nurture

I feel like this article is relevant to this class:

‘Our love of music and appreciation of musical harmony is learnt and not based on natural ability – a new study by University of Melbourne researchers has found.

Associate Professor Neil McLachlan from the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences said previous theories about how we appreciate music were based on the physical properties of sound, the ear itself and an innate ability to hear harmony.

“Our study shows that musical harmony can be learnt and it is a matter of training the brain to hear the sounds,” Associate Professor McLachlan said.
 “So if you thought that the music of some exotic culture (or Jazz) sounded like the wailing of cats, it’s simply because you haven’t learnt to listen by their rules.”

Monotony of the Daily Routine

          Very quickly into analyzing the sounds of my daily routine, I found a pattern. For the most part, the sounds that are found in my everyday work seem to be monotonous and dull, while the sounds of my leisure/enjoyment are often random and meaningful. Although this is a broad generalization, it speaks to how much of a routine college is and also to the necessity for students to mix up their daily habits in order to find peace and balance in their life.

            The first three sounds of my day are often accomplished in a half-awake mind frame that solely operates for efficiency, not stimulation. A contrast arises in the shower, however, while the steady beat of water pours out of the faucet as a perfect example of the monotonous noises of a daily ritual. However, the initial contact with the tepid water sends a jolt through my system that begins to awaken my senses. As I stand in my seemingly silent room afterwards, I quickly drag the bristles of my toothbrush back and forth across my teeth causing a coarse noise to be emitted that I seem to take for granted as a part of the tranquility of the early morning room. I choose to listen to “Run Through the Jungle” by Creedence Clearwater Revival on the way to class, because it is rhythmic, and the semantics of the song encourage me to walk with energy in my steps as if I was running through a jungle. The CCR song keeps me on edge, and, as Bijsterveld points out, “music [is] legitimized by reference to longstanding positive connotations of rhythm” (163). Like workers in a factory forced to listen to irregular noises of labor, I enjoy listening to a rhythm while walking to class because it increases my productivity (speed) and enjoyment of the process.

Morning Routine 

The sharp cutting of skates across ice is repeatedly followed by full stops. Although the stops repeat in the clip, a game of pickup hockey usually contains sounds of skates moving at random. Sharp cuts can be used as indicators in a pickup hockey game, for example, if I am looking to pass to a teammate who I know is behind me. I will use Chion’s Causal Listening idea in order to properly execute the pass. The cutting noise is used to precisely find my teammate’s (the cause of the sound) blade to place the puck where it needs to go.


Playing catch with a baseball is another example of random noises coming from an activity of excitement. Although there is disturbance in the recording, one can clearly make out loud snaps of the ball hitting a glove. These snaps are not at a steady beat, nor do they have the same pitch or volume level every throw. The quality of the catch location in the mitt and the speed of the throw provide variables to the sound and also contribute to the fun of the game.


The beepers from the Redstone Kitchen exemplify repetitive noises that symbolize the daily routine. The non-stop, irritating beeping captured in this recording can disappear once one does not have it at his/her side, but the beeping is ever present in the background noise of the hall. This is similar to how work is always on the horizon of a college student even if, for a moment, he/she has caught up on work and is enjoying leisure.

Redstone Beepers

The next two noises compliment each other because they both represent leisure and relaxation. The initial crack of a carbonated beverage is symbolic of relaxation that is followed by the sound of swigging liquid and an emphatic “ah”. Coupled with the refreshment and instant relaxation, the sounds from a Bruins vs. Sabres hockey game are alive and pleasurably dissimilar to that from the daily grind. I use Chion’s idea of Semantic Listening, listening to comprehend a message, to see who is doing certain things in the hockey game. Causal Listening is also used to pick up background noises from the game, which can accommodate a better perception of the atmosphere of the arena. Sudden claps of sticks, disturbances in the boards, and yells from the players bring a human element to the game.

Refreshment  Bruins vs. Sabres

Lastly, after relaxation and a momentary break from work, the last two sounds signify my return to the daily grind. The first is that of boiling water as it generates warmth and increases volume. The soft click of the kettle signifies not only that the water has reached a boil, but also that the time has come to return to work. The slow, satisfying noise of the water filling the cup is only a false hope of calm. In a fitting conclusion to my day (and this blog post), I go back to work religiously typing on the keys that have each been pushed separately thousands of times over in order to create a product that must be handed in for rank. These noises will be repeated over again tomorrow, as the next day brings much of the same as the last: repetitive noise coupled with monotonous actions.

Kettle  Typing



Bijsterveld, Karin. “Listening to Machines: Industrial Noise, Hearing Loss and the Cultural Meaning of Sound.” The Sound Studies Reader (2012): 152-64. Text.

Chion, Michael. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Ed. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Run Through the Jungle”

Listening to Taste

acoustic tribology - listerning to what the tongue feels

IMAGE: Acoustic tribology diagram via NIZO.

Are the senses always separate? The condition known as synaesthesia, or the blending of sensations in a given experience, has come up in our discussions recently. Here is an example of researchers blending hearing and tasting in order to provide more accurate information for food scientists who wish to better understand “mouthfeel.

Read about the device that measures taste via hearing, and listen to what the taste of coffee sounds like here: “Listening to What the Tongue Feels

A Day In The Life

I chose to open my audiography with silence. Silence represents the calm before the storm. When we are sleeping we do not process the sense data of the real world in a direct way. In reality the only silence is found in sleep.

The silence is followed by an alarm. This noise wakes me every day. More than that, it marks a sharp snap into the new day. The alarm is both cyclic and punctual, it divides the realms of slumber and awareness of dreams and reality. In addition to these sentiments the also evokes a sense of resentment. Resentment for the regular and scheduled life we construct, wash rinse and repeat. As the alarm interrupts my natural Circadian rhythm, I am reminded of how little freedom I have existing within a system of artificial segmentation of time and an unnecessary sense of urgency.

Following this alarm is the song “Hoodmorning” by the Game. The opening half minuet of the song reminds me of how fortunate I am to be waking up in the place I am. It is also an upbeat song that adds some flavor to an otherwise monotonous morning routine. When selecting what song to start my day with, I had some difficulty. After narrowing it down to two selections, Up Up and Away by KiD CuDi and the previously mentioned track,  I decided to go with the Game, mostly because of the general message of the song and the semantic mood it creates. KiD CuDi is too airy and happy to begin the grind of a day of classes to. In reality, the specific song is unimportant to the auditory significance of this sound byte. Rather, it is the buildup of the introduction and abrupt beginning that force me out of bed and into the shower.

The noises of my morning hygienic activities are white noise. The sound of water running in the shower as regular to us as the wind, can induce a meditative mood, especially fresh out of the dream state. It is this sound coupled with a feeling of refreshment that pulls me fully into my day. As I hastily brush my teeth, listening causally as Michelle Chion would say, I stop to realize how odd it is to hear a noise from inside one’s own head. The sounds of cleanliness are encouraging and healthy.

As my day continues I head to class, compressed air hisses as a bus pulls up to the front of University Heights North. It represents the beginning of work, of study. As my ear perceives the hissing air, a mental sigh accompanies it, and I am resolved as I board the bus, mentally preparing to tune out the noise on board. The clamor of humanity itches my inner ear as I ride to class, irritating and obnoxious, even as I try to block it out. Snippets of the irrelevant banter we employ to fill the silence of our world. Conversations with no substance, used to pass the time, to fill the space with not a single individual investing any real stock or passion into anything they say. Talking for the sake of talking. I am relieved as I disembark.

This transitions to the relative silence of the classroom broken every so often by the question of a student or the opening of a door. Pencil scratches paper as the professors voice slowly fades from my immediate auditory sphere of attention and becomes time. The scratch of pencil on paper is significant. It is paradoxical. The audio should indicate a hunger for knowledge, a drive to pay attention and take down the notes heard from the professor manifested in frantic scratching. In this case it is the sound of a pencil doodling away, the sound of a brain producing in the wrong discipline, an artistic output that indicates a need for stimulation. The boredom encapsulated in this sound byte is something I live with daily, another reminder of the monotone of daily life. It seems that the monotone of life. It seems that as our lives become more monotonous in nature, audio of our daily lives blends together, resonating with this sentiment. We are quick to disregard those things that do not interest us, especially in audition.

Class ends and I return to my dorm. The slam of the door punctuates the day, semantically symbolizing an end to work contrasting a physically constrained dorm with the mental felling of freedom that creeps into my consciousness.

This freedom is manifested in music. As I turn on the stereo and Macklemore’s “Jimmy Iovine” blasts on and the bass rattles the shades, I start to refocus my auditory sense on the music finally something with passion coupled with intelligence. Message and content are integral in my enjoyment of music, the semantic meaning of lyrics stimulates my brain in ways that the noises of everyday life never can. Reduced listening takes this to a whole different level, opening a world of infinite possibility.

Lastly, I included the light switching off to punctuate my day. A simple click the marks a spiral into the world of dreams and nightmares, a calming and relieving noise even with the knowledge that tomorrow won’t be that much different.


Sources Considered:

Chion “The Three Listening Modes”


Erlmann, “The String and the Mirror ”


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ab-Soul “Jimmy Iovine”


The Game “Hoodmorning”

In and Out of Listening

In completing this assignment, I tried to think of what aural elements of a typical day I wanted to portray. I was thus forced to open my ears, and try to objectively hear my surroundings in a way that I don’t always do. I won’t claim to have listened critically for the whole time that I was making recordings, but I did stop and consciously listen more carefully on many occasions. One thing that I became more conscious of, was how often I chose to put on my headphones in my commute between classes. When and where I would take my headphones off and switch from an isolated, immersive, musical experience, to the ambient sounds around me, became a focus of my interest on this assignment. In the past month or so, I’ve been using a new pair of headphones, and in many ways there ability to isolate sound so effectively has changed my soundscape significantly on the days I choose to bring them with me. I tried to portray the jarring nature of going between a few songs that I might listen to throughout the day, and the sounds I hear when I don’t have them on.

Having the frequent juxtaposition between absence of ambient noise, and then the sounds I hear upon removing my headphones—at times a bombardment of external, ‘random,’ sounds—can be bit jarring at times, but it also provides insight towards the different nature of the two sound types. It often takes a fraction of a second to readjust to the wider soundscape provided in the real world around me, one that headphones fail to simulate effectively. I think the move from a single recorded sound source—played in an enclosed circumaural acoustic environment—to the array of different sound sources going on in most areas of campus during the day, takes a brief adjusting to. I am reminded of both the Chion and Horowitz articles; on the one hand because of the kind of listening I am practicing, and on the other because of the potential impact my choice to listen to electronic music through much of the day may have on my overall ability to discern and pick apart different elements of the ‘natural’ sounds around me.

Depending on when, where, or why I choose to take off my headphones, I am most likely moving from reduced listening of the recording to causal, and/or semantic listening of my surroundings. As the muffs come off, I begin to consider the location of whatever it is that I’m hearing first. If there’s talking, I simultaneously process what is being said, whether it relates to me or not, and discern meaning from the words. When I’m listening to music, it is typically in the realm of reduced listening, though at times it is a combination of reduced and semantic if there are lyrics that I’m focusing on. Interestingly, Chion says that “reduced listening is an enterprise that is new, fruitful, and hardly natural. It disrupts established lazy habits and opens up a world of previously unimagined questions for those who try it” (Chion, pg. 51). This contradicts, to some extent, Horowitz’s assertion that “Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload” (Horowitz, pg. 2), because I am, in affect, able to more closely listen to certain sounds because of the technology I own. Let me explain this further in the context of the recordings.

The first sound that plays in my playlist is that of me brushing my teeth, next you’ll hear the sound of the toilet flushing, and then the sound of the shower running. These sounds have become so routine, that it wasn’t until I listened to the recordings and could replay the sounds, that I could start to hear them more objectively. It is the recording capability itself that allows me to focus “…on the sound itself, independent of its cause and of its meaning. Reduced listening takes the sound—verbal, played on an instrument, noises, or whatever—as itself the object to be observed instead of as a vehicle for something else” (Chion, pg. 50). The tin sound of the water hitting the drain grate of the sink, the almost metallic nature of the toilet flush, and the subtle change in sound as I closed the shower curtain all became apparent to me after my initial listening. After showering I get dressed (which I didn’t record), and head outside with my headphones (I simply uploaded a portion of a track I might listen to on any given day to re-create the affect). The next sound after that is of my first Tuesday class convening—before the teacher has begun the lecture. After sitting down, the instant I take my headphones off I actually feel that I am more in tune with what I’m hearing. After having been so focused on the music, and so isolated from the sounds of my surrounding, the sudden confrontation with those sounds forces me to consider more of their elements than I might have if I weren’t fluctuating between ambient and electronically sourced listening. After my class, I went to the library, and the first sound I heard upon taking my headphones off briefly while on the third floor was that of someone highlighting a paper on a desk near me. I could almost feel the felt tip grazing against the tooth of the paper. This took almost no time for my brain to locate, identify, and then imagine. I looked over the edge of the desk, and sure enough—a highlighter on paper. This is another example of the causal listening Chion was talking about, however it wasn’t until I listened to the recording again that I could analyze why my mind knew it was the highlighter on paper. This was very interesting to me, because though I knew what it was, I couldn’t articulate the reason(s) why, until I had given the sound a reduced listen.


Works Cited

Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” The New York Times, 11 Nov. 2012. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

Chion, Michael. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Ed. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

Songs used in the order they appear (artist, then song title):

Barika. Good Morning

Lupe Fiasco. Daydreamin’ (feat. Jill Scoot).

Black Keys. I’m not the one.

Gramatik. Don’t Let Me Down