Something that I am very familiar with is the sound of winter in Vermont. Growing up here, I’ve always accepted it as the season of snowboarding, dragging sleds of hay out to my horses, and the rumble of the snow blower. However, UVM has depicted an entirely new concept of winter that is easy to explore with sound.
I begin my audiography in the Davis Center tunnel. In order to escape the frigid wind howling off the lake, I try to take the tunnel as much as possible. Once I started paying attention to my walks through, it became clear to me that there were two very separate soundscapes at work. The first is during actual class time. This causes near silence in the trek between athletic and central campuses, a trek that I tend to take with only three or four other silent travellers. However, during my rush back to University Heights North at the end of the next block, the tunnel is complete chaos. The line of people waiting to get into the door is the first clue, followed by the loud voices and roar of students scrambling to class or to eat. It ends with the second bottleneck up the stairs and out the door onto athletic. This is something that I only experience in the winter; on fair days, the masses opt to enjoy the weather outside.
Following my rush through the tunnel, I’m usually ready for something to warm me up. The newest addition to my dorm room is my espresso maker; the roar of the coffee brewing and the light tones of the milk frother are always well-received noises after the bitter cold. This tends to be accompanied by some procrastination in the form of Netflix and a cozy blanket. One of my favorite shows is Desperate Housewives. The upbeat theme song instantly relaxes me, an assurance that for at least 43 minutes I won’t have to worry about the work I’m pushing off. Occasionally the four women’s lives are put on hold so I can wash my cup and spoon in the sink, and again when I need to refill my water bottle to combat the dry air emanating from the heater above my head. This has recently been aided by the installment of the water bottle station on the UHN1 side, which has a very distinct hum followed by the trickle of excess water.
When I finally venture out again, sometimes to my next class or to dinner, the cyclical squeal of the heater in the entrance to UHN2 always catches my attention. It’s been a distinct sound since the heating system got switched on in the fall, annoying anyone who is forced to wait there. As I walk outside, my boots mimic the squeak in the snow-packed pathways. Due to the storm, there are plow trucks everywhere, dictating where I can and cannot walk. The beeping as they reverse upsets the peacefulness of the cold day.
Another trademark of the change in temperature is my desire to take the bus downtown or across campus instead of walking. I can usually make it to Waterman before my fingers begin to numb and I hop on the College Street Shuttle. Instantly, the heating vents hit me as I sit down for the warm ride. However, the cold doesn’t bother me when I am able to get out and go snowboarding, usually either to Bolton or Smuggs. Unlike many of the other sounds, the scrape of my board against ice is something I’ve been familiar with my entire life.
These sounds create a very different soundscape than the one I experience in warmer months; the shouts in the sun are replaced by the scraping of ice, the whir of my bike by the crowded bus, and so on. However, both are soundscapes that tend to be overlooked. But throughout this project, I noticed that my sense of hearing became attuned to picking up interesting sounds in everything I did. As Michel Chion would say, my listening turned from solely being causal to being reduced; or it focused “on the traits of the sound itself, independent of its cause and of its meaning” (50). I became more concerned with the intricacies of the actual noises instead of the source, since I needed to notice sounds that I tend to ignore. Instead of simply detecting the noise around me, I would actually practice resolution and sometimes identification as well; I would really listen to sound in order to understand it (Arehart 12). This is something that can be challenging in today’s society of constant overstimulation where we are rarely forced to heed the world around us. Through this project, I was forced to understand Horowitz’s conclusion that “listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload” (2).
Arehart, Kathryn H. “The Nature of Hearing and Hearing Loss.” Sounscape. 1st ed. Vol. 6. Melbourne: Printing Edge Melbourne, 2005. 11-14. Print.
Cherry, Marc. “Give Me the Blame.” Desperate Housewives. ABC. Burbank, California, 2011. Television.
Chion, Michel. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Ed. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 48-53. Print.
Horowitz, Seth S. “The Science and Art of Listening.” The New York Times 9 Nov. 2012: 1-3. Print.