It fascinates me that we can go through an entire day with our ears picking up thousands of small noises that our brain never even acknowledges hearing. Seth Horowitz, an auditory neuroscientist talks extensively about background sounds our brain is trained to ignore in his article The Science and Art of Listening. My ten recorded sounds focus on noises in my soundscape that I usually wouldn’t notice but exist in my everyday life. Whether layered under dialogue or recorded on their own, these small, seemingly insignificant noises are what make our auditory world interesting and full.
My audiography starts with breakfast at the University Marche with my friends. There is audible conversation, but what struck me when I listened to the recording was how loud and predominant the background babble was. It didn’t bother me when I was there because my brain chose not to register all the distracting noise around me. Horowitz notes that, “your auditory system has evolved a complex and automatic ‘volume control,’ fine tuned by development and experience to keep most sounds off of your cognitive radar” (Horowitz, 1). After getting home from breakfast, I ask my roommate if she’d mind if I recorded her shower sounds. She agrees, and I go on my computer as I wait for her to hop in the shower. I get wrapped up in recording myself typing a Facebook chat, thinking about how they sound of typing is yet another noise I wouldn’t usually register. Ten minutes pass, and I look up startled, realizing that she’s been in the shower for a while and I had just involuntarily tuned out the noise I was waiting to hear to start recording. Horowitz mentions that our brain works like “noise suppressing headphones” (Horowitz, 2), and I realized that was exactly what my brain had done.
Since food is easily one of the most enjoyable parts of my life, I included a few more food-related recordings including cooking a burrito and a failed attempt to fry an egg on my roommate’s Panini maker. Hearing the beeper of the microwave, my suitemate curiously asked what I was heating up. This reminded me of what Erlmann talked about in his article about resonation of sound. He wrote about how sound infers connection between a subject and an object. When my suitemate heard the sound of the microwave, which was the subject, she inferred an object related to it, which was food. Our egg fiasco was included in my audiography because again, it backs my idea that there are always underlying sounds that we don’t even think about listening for. Although the conversation is loud above it, if you listen carefully you can hear the griddle sizzling steadily beneath all our yelling and screeching.
After our failed cooking adventure, my roommate and I decided it was a good time to clean up our room a bit. Part of that was taking out the recycling, which my roommate carried while I took the trash. I was exiting the trash room when she dumped the recycling full of glass bottles, which unexpectedly made me jump. Horowitz mentions, after talking about our brain acting as noise suppressing headphones that you brain also, “…acts like a switch to interrupt it something urgent happens” (Horowitz, 3). In this case, the urgent event was just a loud noise, but it’s interesting how our brain works that way. A similar thing happened when I was replacing the trash bag; people were in the other room chatting, which I didn’t really notice, but when loud music was turned on, my attention immediately diverted to that.
Similar to the beginning and middle of my day, my evening concludes with food. On our last outing for the night, I lock the door, and sound I had never really listened to closely before. On the walk over, there is some conversation but I lag behind to record the satisfying crunch of my boots on the deep snow, which is a fairly new and exciting noise for me; the snow here is much deeper than I ever saw at home. Finally, my audiography ends with a friend chomping on an apple, a sound I wouldn’t usually notice or listen to, but whose crisp crunch seemed like a good way to end a day of listening. I’ve found through my day of recording that our soundscape is much deeper than we think: we just need to listen.
Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” The New York Times, 11 Nov. 2012. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.
Erlman, Veit. “Reason and Resonance: A History of Modern Aurality.” Zone Books, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.