The Comfort of Monotony

To be comfortable, I believe people need some consistency in their daily routines. Especially after being thrown, mentally unprepared, into this completely new and unfamiliar university world, I searched for a pattern to establish within my everyday activities. However, this comforting monotony also has the tendency to numb the senses. I especially notice how little I listen to during my daily routine. I no longer notice the buzzing of cars as I wait at the Main Street crosswalk, which I used to enjoy when I first came to school, as it was new to me. This type of aural ignorance comes with time and being accustomed to the environment and the sounds it contains.

In my audiography Monotony, listeners get a sense of what sounds make up my now regular college routine. It opens with a short recording of the alarm sound I wake up to each morning for class, which is the tone entitled “Marimba” on the iPhone. This sound is a perfect example of when I would incorporate causal listening into my day. My roommate and I have the same alarm tone, so I always let the alarm go off for about three run-throughs to ensure that it is my alarm going off and not hers. I then realize my phone is the source of the incessant, vexing tune. Following my alarm is the sound of window shades being pulled open, and immediately after is the whistling of wind through the barely existent cracks in the windowpane. Once awakened by my alarm, I pull open the shades to give myself a view of outside, where I will soon venture, to motivate me. The wind whispering through the windows allows me to focus on the outdoors and use semantic listening to “interpret a message” of the wind as a “code or a language” [1] of the world outside my room inviting me to venture there. Then, in the next recording, my roommate coughs several times, which I often hear as I get up in the morning lately due to her sickness. This sound grounds me back to where I am, and reminds me that I still have some preparing to do before taking part in the outdoor pursuit that begins my sure-to-be busy day.

The next sound is my door slamming shut, representing me leaving my room and beginning my daily duties, followed by the grinding, mechanical drone of my laptop starting up as I open it. These two sounds incorporate semantic listening as well, as they both involve a message of starting something. The shutting of the door represents leaving behind one event and starting another, and the laptop, obviously, illustrates gearing up and getting ready for some research or writing.

Typing of keys on my laptop is the next sound on the playlist, which is meant to stand for my times in class during the five school days every week. I believe I use semantic listening again when hearing typing, as I interpret it as a representation of work and academic efforts since I type homework assignments and notes.

The last three sounds of the playlist represent the gradual closing of each day. Scrunching of snow under boots is next, which is representative of my finishing class and walking back to the dorms to unwind a bit before burying myself under readings and notes for the unfortunate hours of homework I will surely have that night. Although I listen to music as I walk, I often hear this sound in the silence between songs on my iPod, and it is one of my personal favorites. Semantic listening tells me that it is winter in Vermont, which is beautiful and spirited.

The running water of a shower follows, representing relaxation and cleansing of the stresses of class before returning to work. Next is a short clip of one of my favorite study songs, the third movement of Scenes from the Louvre, a classical piece by Norman Dello Joio. I often listen to classical music as I work because songs with words tend to distract me. For this music, I use reduced listening, because I hear it for what it is, and do not infer anything from it.

I arranged my playlist in chronological order because I believe that gives listeners more insight into my routine, as the point of a routine is that the events are normally done in a particular order. They experience the sounds in the order I do. Making this playlist, I realized how many sounds blend together into the soundscape background that makes up everyday life. Searching for these sounds to record caused them to be “perceived consciously rather than just being part of [my] auditory surroundings” [2]. However, the fact that these sounds can blend together into the background proves that I have established my niche here at UVM and gives me a sense of comfort and belonging in my environment.


[1] Chion, Michel. “The Three Listening Modes.” Trans. Array The Sound Studies Reader. Jonathan Sterne. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.

[2] Horowitz, Seth S. “The Science and Art of Listening.” New York Times. n. page. Print.

One thought on “The Comfort of Monotony

  1. I like how you contrast the fact that you used to enjoy certain sounds when first coming to UVM with how unnoticeable they have become. I also think it’s a good conclusion that you “have established [your] niche here”, and I think that this shows how we tend to become desensitized to background noise in places where we are comfortable.

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