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.

 

 

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.

Skating

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.

Catch 

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

 

Sources:

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”

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

A Day With Jack, My Dog

Begins: 8:09 February 9, 2013

Ends: 8:23 February 10, 2013

            This 24-hour and 14-minute section of my life begins on a frigid Vermont eve, as my dog, mom, and I jump in the car to drive home to our 20×18 Foot, waterless, three room skiing camp. It used to be a hunting camp but the moose head and rifles shipped out about eight years ago when my mom stumbled upon the hidden oasis. With a bubbling brook, willowing pines, miles of snowy kingdoms, and infrequent snowmobiles, this house has been a haven for rest, relaxation, and escape.

My day begins at 8:09 the night before with Jack quiet and unnoticed in the back, and my mom’s distinguished voice cutting in above the loud and bumpy noise of the car rattling over the road. The first two recordings capture these combatting sounds of the drive home. My mom’s voice represents all three of Chion’s methods of listening, causal, semantic, and reduced because I’m listening and I know it’s to my mom, processing the words she’s saying, and I’m also catching the strain in her voice. On the other hand, when my mom isn’t speaking the ambient sounds of the car, the tires, the gravel, and the snow, are heard as a simple causal background and don’t undergo the reduced listening gaze. This contrast between the two recordings displays an interesting correlation between what humans might consider ambient noise, and what they might focus on more readily and understand more fully. As I listen to my mom’s voice, I can’t help but hear the effort in her voice, also known as her intonation. When the ambient noise returns to the solo stage, it seems almost subconsciously ignored. Since there isn’t a human voice speaking words that have meaning, the hearing sense returns to its most basic and easiest function, causal listening. Much like Horowitz discusses, it seems as if since nothing “dangerous or wonderful is [any]where within the kilometer or so that [my] ears can detect,” I am at ease and paying very little acute attention to my surroundings (Horowitz 1). Because I was comfortable and safe in the car, my auditory alert system was diluted and fuzzier.

 Next comes a short excerpt of couch life from inside the cozy camp. The thirty-four seconds of camp ambience, represented by my mom’s cooing of my dog and her subtle typing, are overlaid with another more prominent level of sound. Whilst I was surrounded by the natural rhythms of my home, quite comfortable and at ease, I was also using technology, my laptop, to watch a short bit of BBC’s Planet Earth documentary series. The squawking of birds followed by heavy flapping and screeching exceptionally simulates a short auditory experience of a jungle. I think this soundscape would greatly interest Professor Horowitz because of his interest in the apparent attack of technology. What is most interesting is my paradox of immersing my mind in sounds and images of nature, through the use of hearing’s worst enemy: the humdrum of modern technology. Horowitz claims listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction an information overload,” but it seems technologically simulated nature is becoming extremely effective as we progress (2). I would question whether this is a positive or negative development in our auditory relations with our machine world and the natural world.

The next morning begins my daily maneuvers, which appear as a semi-routine when taken as a group of three. My first task, as every other morning I get the chance, I turn on my computer, rub the sleep from my eyes, put some water on to heat, and throw on Twiddle’s When it Rains it Poors. Next I scratchily get dressed for the day, today’s different though; it’s an adventure day. I pull on Under Armour, Hot Chilly leggings, warm socks, a breathable athletic shirt, and then toss on my Patagonia pullover. The shifty sounds of this short excerpt lead up to the actual boiling of the water, followed by the short pour into the teacup. With my uplifted mood and preparations both checked off for the morning, I’m ready to begin in earnest, a walk with Jack.

The earliest sounds of our excursion are my two attempts at capturing the natural stillness surrounding us. For so long, the only harsh sounds of my atmosphere are my heavy footfalls, but when they stop, a total silence encompasses my auditory world. But then, as I stop to record and take a sip or water, the faint murmur of snowmobiles approaches, and quickly grows to a harsh berating mechanical sound. Again my mind turns to Horowitz, Chion, Schafer, and maybe even Bijsterveld, as I contemplate the type of sounds, causal and reduced, their historical and cultural ramifications, and their current source: technology. This juxtaposition of silence with manmade interruption is interesting, but not alone. The very next recording captures another brief technological intrusion, the car driving by, followed by the crisp beat of my footsteps. Only between them, there is another notable exclamation of sound. My quite estranged voice, to mine own ears, cuts through the crunching snow to signal my ingrained need for lingual communication.

The walk continues a, little more organically, with Jack’s sniffing layered above the quiet birdcalls subtly crisscrossing around the immediate area. It’s an ineffable moment of natural peace and I’m grateful to have captured it. A while after, we finally reach the main road, and are immediately bombarded by the roar of commonplace automobile. Silence recaptures its hold briefly, only to have it shattered by a cluster of cars roaring by. Now Jack and I are resigned to a period of repeated and equally jarring mechanical interruptions. We amble rather soundlessly, more for the reason that the ears are forced to be ever wary of incoming cars, and unable to catch the nuances of the breezes and river nearby. A pity the Mad River couldn’t make an appearance, but maybe another day. The monotonous necessity of the causal listening reminded me of Karin Bijsterveld and her inquiries within Listening to Machines: Industrial Noise, Hearing Loss and the Cultural Meaning of Sound. Specifically, she discusses the necessity of hearing within industrial settings, but it seems to me that even two-lane Route 100 has become a hub of technologically caused noise. Everywhere, not just in the factories, are the harsh interruptions of human mechanical culture.

Luckily only about fifteen minutes go by and we find a side road, laden with quaint residences, that parallels the highway, but with a major reduction in auto-noise. This recording captures the crescendo clacking of Jack’s claws upon the gravelly and deteriorated pavement. What most interests me is the dynamic of Jack’s approach. How it goes from quiet, to a climactic and powerful sound, and suddenly dies when he reaches me, and his other goal, an ear-scratch. I found this little snippet to interest me more musically than many of the others. As a beat boxer, I am always subconsciously on the lookout for interesting sounds or effects to replicate. How I somehow managed to get my recorder going just before he trotted contentedly over to me I will never know, but will forever be thankful for. I imagine it might also interest Chion in terms of sound type and resultant effects.

To finally wrap-up this day of some mixture of companionship with Jack, nostalgia with my mom, my regular routines, serene nature, and invasive industry, a cascade of noise and refreshment washes away the trance of the auditory adventure. The shower’s surround-sound effect, coupled with the physical effects of the cleansing water sweep away the soundscape of the day. As soon as the curtain pulls closed, the sound sphere of my perception shrinks and returns to dorm-life mode. I am readying myself for the nearly constant murmur of human interaction, whether it be music, conversation, or movement. I reflect on my day and realize suddenly what a wonderful day with my dog that was. And then I decided to write about it.

 

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.

Schafer, Murray. “Open Ears.” Thinking About Sound. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 25-39. Print.

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

 Twiddle. “When it Rains it Poors. Somewhere on the Mountain. 2011. CD.

 

Below is a sequence of my 12 recordings, played as read. Another can be found by following this Soundcloud link and starting at the bottom, and working your way up.

Driving Home on dirt road Driving Home Two Pulling i Driveway Planet Earth Watching twiddle 30 second morning Getting Dressed in the morning Pouring Tea Water Silence Penetrated by Snowmobiles Car followed by walking Sniffy Puppy Getting to edge of the road Jack Walks to Me taking a shower, Sugar loops at beginning?

Lazy Sunday: 10 Recordings

What better to document aurally then the legendary lazy Sunday? Everyone knows what a lazy Sunday entails; sleeping in, having a big breakfast, meandering through trivial tasks, relaxing and snacking. When I close my eyes and allow my imagination to brainstorm on these ideas, visual images spring to existence, enticing scents cause my nostrils to flare, but my auditory imagination remains rather limited. I recorded a few sounds and captured some soundscapes which I often encounter on these wonderful lazy Sunday’s. The sounds proceed chronologically throughout the day allowing for the listener to build a soundscape of my day that not only is very diverse in its sounds but also spans a segment of time.

I began with the boiling of my kettle and the pouring of a mug of tea. Listening to this recording casually would provide the most practical. The ferocious bubbling followed by the ring of the kettle bell proceeds the pouring of a liquid which one can easily assume to be boiling water.

I then recorded a few second of a John Coltrane and the flipping of a page in my Biology textbook because who doesn’t love jazz music while they are studying. Chion’s three modes of listening can be applied here as well. Because John Coltrane doesn’t always have words to accompany his beautiful notes, semantic listening reveals very little on the noise but casual and reduced listening are both rather informative in this situation. Casual listening allows for us to associate unique sounds to specific instruments and the reduced listening tells us about the quality of the notes released by these instruments.

After I aurally sampled a random 45 second period in the Grundel (the Harris-Millis dining complex), I began to think about Karin Bijsterveld’s theory on how we as a modernized and industrialized society listen to machines. When I was directly listening in the Grundel I felt as if it were a relatively quiet day, but when I went back and listened to the recording I heard this infernal hum of massive kitchen appliances. Once I was aware of the never ending drawl of the kitchen, it was all I could hear, it almost became deafening yet the more time I spent in the Grundel, the quieter the roar became until I hardly noticed anything. The human ear is an incredible machine with an equally amazing processing unit, its ability to acclimate to constant stimulus is fascinating.

Watching TV is primarily a visual task, so listening to an audio recording of me watching television seemed like an interesting approach to mapping a soundscape of a lazy Sunday. Casual and semantic listening work hand in hand here to provide grounds for identification of the television shows heard in the background.

Deviating slightly from the theme of a lazy Sunday, I actually did something semi productive in completing a load of laundry. The laundry room is another example of human ears adapting to the audio environment and almost canceling out the sounds of machines. There are however, sounds which permeate everything. The awful, squealing beep of the laundry machine, from a reduced listening perspective, is just a high enough pitch to always trigger the stimulation levels necessary to induce hearing.

Redstone dining is the perfect meal for a lazy Sunday, and therefore the associated sounds make up a section of the soundscape of a lazy Sunday. The pager system for food delivery at Redstone produces an annoying beeping that always hovers in the dining hall. I once asked an employee of the dining hall what the beeping pagers mean to them, and there response was very in line with the ideas of Murray Schafer. The employee said to me, “You always hear the pagers, but eventually you don’t hear them, you know what I mean?” This reminded me of his opening line, “We have no ear lids. We are condemned to listen. But this does not mean our ears are always open” (Schafer 25).

A true Sunday always has some variety of sports to watch and today was a hockey day. My roommate and I watched the Bruins battle the Sabres, and I took a small audio sample of the game in which semantic listening can be applied to gather meaning from the phonemes and morphemes that make up the English language.

Having recently been sick, I still had a slight cough interrupting my lazy Sunday. I set up my microphone and waited until I had to cough. This noise I made is identified easily via casual listening and by mixing reduced and casual listening, one may, with the right set of skills, be able to deduce a rough estimate of my size based on the sound of my cough.

The pilgrimage to the water fountain down the hall from me happens at least five time a day a recording had to be included. This was one of my favorite recordings because it captured a conversation I had at the watering hole, a very common event when replenishing my water supplies. Because this is such an average sound for me, I felt it had to be included in my soundscape of a lazy Sunday.

My final sound was of my friends and I just hanging out and munching on some crackers and cheese. I have a lot of social interactions on Sunday’s so I figured a little bit of dialogue, no matter how random, should be included in the soundscape. It also opens the perfect window for semantic listening to be applied.

Sunday Morning Tea

Coltrane and Page Flipping

2:15 in the Grundel

Sunday Afternoon TV Relaxation

Laundry on Sunday Night

Picking Up an Order at Redstone

Bruins vs Sabres

Coughing

Filling Up My Waterbottle

Crackers and Cheese

Works Cited

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

Chion, Michel. “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader (2012): 48-53. Text.

Schafer, Murray. “Open Ears.” Thinking About Sound (n.d.): 25-39. Web.

A Day in the Life of Music

Living in a world constantly bombarded by visual stimuli begins to numb ones ability to hear. Our lives have become so focused on what things look like and how we visually perceive objects that we have forgotten how to truly listen to the atmosphere around us. Horowitz states “We tend to think of the world as a place we see, interacting with things and people based on how they look,” supporting the claim that by neglecting the audible world that is constantly surrounding us, we miss out on pivotal points in our lives. College students (myself included) are under constant pressures and are forced adapt to this ever-increasingly visual based society. However, it’s when we are able to slow down and actively listen that we can completely alter our perspectives of our day-to-day lives.

A typical day in the life of a college student would seem fairly simple. Keep your head down to read the new Facebook notifications that pop up into your slightly cracked iPhone, walk from class to class listening to the monotonous conversations between other students, sit down for dinner with your friends and talk about how you all cannot wait until the weekend. This has become our routine. The constant chatter of campus life, the cutting wind, the sounds of generators and fans in classrooms, have all become part of our mosaic soundscape. It would seem that nowadays the average student is more likely to spend his/her time in silence, than sharing experiences with their friends. Who’s to blame? What is the thief that has been crippling our abilities to foster new friendships and create memorable moments with groups of friends? It is because we have become accustomed listeners. We are so used to hearing the same music, sounds, and tones, that we lose interest in finding anything new. However, if you add new sounds to a daily routine you can drastically change your outlook on your “typical day,” just as Horowitz stated saying “The richness of life doesn’t lie in the loudness and the beat, but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention [1].”

My collection of sounds is a testament to what adding and sharing new audible experiences can do for a daily routine. Even starting the day off with a slight change in the normal tones you hear can give you a colorful perspective on your daily activities. My first and second clips are connected. Normally the shower only exposes me to the sounds of the water coming out of the showerhead and the constant light drumming of the droplets hitting the floor. Adding music helped me to pay greater attention and think more about the keynote sounds I would normally overlook on a daily basis. This allowed me to pick up on the leaky faucet and create a unique sound using what would be simple background noise. Yet another example of how “listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense, and paying attention to the nonvisual parts of our world feeds into everything [1].”

Music and sound serves not only as a portal to emotions and feelings that one could deem inconceivable, but also as a catalyst in social interactions.  The rest of the sounds are not what a typical day in a college student’s life sound like normally. They are, however, possibilities of what it could become through the addition of different sounds and music. All of the clips such as walking to the concert at Radiobean, the concert itself, and clips of friends making their own music for fun bring a powerful message. All of the people heard in the crowd are there to listen to music together. Not only is the collective experiencing the same sound, but also everyone has his or her own interpretations and individual thoughts. It’s this colossus of ideas and different interpretations that ultimately brings people together and that can change ones “typical” into something much more meaningful – especially in a setting such as the one presented in my audiography. When one is immersed so fully by sounds (i.e. the roar of the crowd, voices of the performers) two things occur: the overpowering awareness of the presence of resonance, and the need to use all three types of listening. In a crowd you are constantly hearing the buzz of conversation mixed with the music and the softer keynote sounds, which “entails adjacency, sympathy, and the collapse of the boundary between perceiver and perceived” – the embodiment of resonance [2]. You are also forced to listen to the music and tones on a variety of levels including “a specific person’s voice, the sound produced by a particular unique object,” the “code of a language to interpret a message,” and “the listening mode that focuses on the traits of the sound itself [3].”

The use of all three modes of listening as well as the aural resonance that is constantly heard is what brings people together. It is not the phone screens, or the numerous text messages to set up plans, but the ability to share in this moment of hearing music and truly listening to it that brings people together and can ultimately change the outlook of one’s typical day at college. The average sounds one would hear during a typical day at school would be much different than these, however, with the addition of different sounds and new music, a typical day could be easily altered to change one’s entire outlook on college.

 

 

[1] Seth Horowitz, The Science and Art of Listening (New York: The New York Times, 2012)

[2] Veit Erlmann, Reason and Resonance: A History of Modern Aurality (New York: Zone Books, 2010)

[3] Michel Chion, “The Three Listening Modes.” The Sound Studies Reader. Comp. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012

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.

Relaxation and Sound

The college years are the most enjoyable years for many people. However, with the academic pressures that come with college, they can also be the most stressful. Hearing about taxing college classes from my friends, I decided going coming into UVM that I would emphasize relaxation in my life. I have discovered that sound has a profound impact on how I am able to relax in any given situation.

One way I am able to relax is by engaging in activities that directly involve creating sound. For example, my boyfriend and I were in the musical “Pippin” together in high school. Sometimes we just break out into a song from the show. I find that relaxing because singing is a way for us to let loose. When I sing with my boyfriend, I am engaging in semantic listening. “I call semantic listening that which refers to a code or language to interpret a message” (Chion 50). This is necessary in order for us to stay together in the song.  Another time I make noise to have fun is at UPlayers, the UVM theater club. Sometimes we do improvisation exercises that emphasize the role of sound. This requires causal listening because I have to know who is making the noise, but there’s no specific word meaning involved. Causal listening is listening with the purpose of identifying the source of a sound (Chion 48). My dance class is another time when listening is important. I am able to relax in dance class because it gives me the opportunity to achieve expressive freedom. Sometimes we listen to music without words when we are coming up with a composition. When this happens, I am engaging in reduced listening. This refers to listening just for the purpose of analyzing the sound, not the cause or the specific meaning (Chion 50). This is the best type of listening in this situation because it allows me to connect with the music on a deeper level.

Sometimes, when I am a contributor to a group noise being created, I can hear the sound, but I don’t really listen. An example of this is when I’m at the Marché. There are a lot of people talking, including myself and my friends, as well as the sound of eating, walking, and usually some music in the background. However, until I recorded this event, I didn’t realize that all these sounds were being made. I noticed that I associate these sounds with relaxation. This is useful information because now I can actively seek out that crowd noise to calm down. “Luckily, we can train our listening just as with any other skill” (Horowitz 2). My goal is to train my ears to recognize crowd noise on a more conscious level. Spending time with my friends over the summer is another time I get to wind down. When we go downtown, we always talk at the same time. I want to train my listening to appreciate what everyone is saying.

I also use sounds for relaxation when I am less involved in making the sound, and more of an observer. This often happens when my boyfriend tells me about a video game he likes. I listen semantically, not really having much to add. This gives me a nice break from having to think of things to say. Paying attention in these situations is important to my relationship. “Listen to your significant other’s voice…the emotions carried in the harmonics. You may save yourself a couple of fights” (Horowitz 2). I am also able to relax when I’m listening to music, like my favorite song “Be OK” by Ingrid Michaelson, or to the opening music of my favorite TV show, “Numbers”.  In these situations I engage in reduced listening to relax, so that I can sit back and appreciate what I hear. I also observed that when I’m brushing my teeth and showering, I engage in causal listening to relax. The familiarity of the water running on my hair and the brush scrubbing my teeth is very comforting. Overall, making sure I listen is a helpful tool in relaxation. Using semantic, causal, or reduced listening can be most effective depending on the situation.

Sounds Referenced:

Works Cited

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

Chisholm, Kenneth. “Counterfeit Reality.” Numbers. CBS. 11 Mar. 2005. Television.

Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” New York Times 9 Nov. 2012: n. pag. Print.

Michaelson, Ingrid. “Be OK” YouTube. YouTube, 04 Sept. 2008. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.