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”

Commonality and Repetition

After beginning ones college life, it is very easy to notice all that is perceived can be boiled down into two categories: that which is static, and that which is changing. Static perceptions can be seen as constant, but not in the sense that there is no break from their presence. These perceptions are, instead, repetitive and dull from achieving a label of ‘usual’. Even the most chaotic of environments, given time, can morph into background static. Taking from the work of Karen Bijsterveld, quoting Doron K. Antrim, “‘the ear tends to follow’ the agreeable ‘regular tonal pulsations’ of music and ‘ to forget’ the irritating and fatiguing ‘regular pulsations’ of noise” (Bijsterveld 156). The audiography I have assembled, Static, explores the constant sounds of my life and the way I listen to these sounds.

Tracks like “That Darn Alarm”, “Morning Shower” and “Genetics Homework” are examples of sounds that, while being heard and recognized, do not entirely register. The shower, the sounds of pencil on paper and the alarm, used solely by my roommate, are all sounds that I no longer pay attention to, simply because of their lack of importance and, in the case of the alarm, because I rarely get up when my roommate does. In the words of Set Horowitz, “[I] keep most sounds off [my] cognitive radar unless they might be of use as a signal” (Horowitz, 4). Static sounds that hold no importance to me often go unnoticed, even if they are heard.

There are two examples of ambiance included in my audiography, displaying two different settings that are experienced in similar ways. While the background noise in my room tends to be quiet at times, the Marche is loud and full of voices and music. As different as these environments are, I ‘hear’ similarly in both. The sounds of the radiator and wind outside are dimmed out just as the conversations and music are in the Marche. Both of the sounds experienced in these areas, heard on an everyday basis, have little significance and are diminished to give way to other sounds that I may cognitively find important.

The track “Suitemate Playing Guitar” is an example of a sound that is heard often in my suite. My suitemate likes serenades us with songs he has written (or like this case, songs we have requested) and often I have found myself semiconsciously using the character of his songs as an indicator for his mood. This act of using semantic listening, something Chion describes as listening for “a code or language to interpret a message” (Chion, 50), is one way the common sounds of my life and translated into something meaningful.

Practice” is a track capturing the work I do at the music center on a daily basis. The amount of time spent playing the instrument have left me familiar with it and the music, but unlike the other examples, the familiarity with the sounds has not left me unaware to what is being played. On the contrary, I often listen harder to understand what I am playing and what must be done to improve my interpretation of the piece. Another example of semantic listening, I often pull meaning from the emotions the composer is trying to convey through the music to try and better perform the pieces. Using causal listening, which Chion describes as“listening to a sound in order to gather information about its cause or source” (Chion, 48), I often have to identify what is being played wrong in order to fix it. The variety of listening methods used while practicing make practicing it something common but not off the radar.

The sounds that are heard on a common basis often go unnoticed, often existing in the background but given no thought. Some are continuous, others are repetitive, but most of these sounds are ignored to leave more room to focus on sounds that we are unaccustomed to. When we do listen to the sounds we have diminished in recognition, we employ a variety of techniques suited to analyze and process the sounds, in the hope that we may gleam meaning from the underlying patterns and repetitions.

 

Works Cited

Bijsterveld, Karin. “Listening to Machines.” The Sound Studies Reader. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 152-167. Print.

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

Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” New York Times. 9 Nov 2012. Web.

 

 

Repeat or Replay

According to Karin Bijsterveld, quoting Doron K. Antrim, “‘the ear tends to follow’ the agreeable ‘regular tonal pulsations’ of music and ‘ to forget’ the irritating and fatiguing ‘regular pulsations’ of noise” (Bijsterveld 156).  The recordings included in my audiography, “Repetitions,” exemplify Bijsterveld’s idea that noise and chaos become musical and rhythmic when repeated in an orderly fashion.  The sounds I included in “Repetitions” are sounds that I hear repeated each day and have taken on the role of rhythmic background music to the dynamic aspects of my life.  I arranged these sounds in the order that I hear them each day.  “Repetitions” begins with the way I begin my day, with my morning shower, cycles through my routine of eating and attending class and running, and then ends back where it began in my dorm room.  Occasionally one sound is misplaced in the sequence, for example I eat at Harris/Millis later in the day or hop on my computer earlier, but usually such small shifts in the rhythm of my life do not change the way I define myself.  However, major shifts in the arrangement of these repetitive sounds alter my perceptions of myself, and often these major changes occur depending on my physical location and my age.

When initially establishing my rhythmic background, by coming to a new place or point in my life, I employ causal listening by “listening to a sound in order to gather information about its cause or source” (Chion 48).  Upon my arrival at UVM, I heard an electronic swish and thump, and I was forced to identify the cause of the sound as the hallway door being opened and closed.  Gradually, as I became more accustomed to the opening and closing noises of the door, I employed a form of semantic listening by listening for, “a code or language to interpret a message” (Chion 50).  Although, in listening to the door, I was not hearing the words that make up language, I was using semantic listening by identifying patterns in the way the door was opened to signify the meaning behind that act.  For example, if the door is opened for more than ten seconds before it shuts, there are probably multiple people entering the hallway, or if the door is opened very gruffly and quickly, it is possible that the person opening the door is in a hurry.  By identifying patterns and behavioral codes in the sounds of the door, I am using semantic listening to identify the motivations behind the person opening the door.  Throughout my college experience so far, I have first listened to all of my recorded sounds causally and then later listened semantically.

By entering the next stage of listening to my various rhythmic sounds, Schafer would claim that these sounds no longer capture my attention as they did when I was first employing causal listening because the sounds become a consistent part of my environment, and “things that can’t be generated or shut off with buttons or switches attract little attention in the modern world” (Schafer 38).  However, due to the consistent repetition of these sounds day after day, I have developed a relationship with the noises because they define me at this point in my life.  I may not listen to each of these sounds with focused attention every time I hear each noise, but because I listened intently to the sounds when I first encountered them I have “tune[d] [my] brain to the patterns of [my] environment” and will  quickly identify a change in any of my included recordings (Horowitz 2).

Like the factory workers Bijsterveld describes whose “cultural meanings of sounds largely explain the lack of [their] enthusiasm for hearing protection,” the way I identify with the sounds of my current situation at UVM explains how I feel about my surroundings and myself (Bijsterveld 163).  When I return home to Oregon this summer, I will need to redefine myself by the rhythmic noises of my everyday life in a new town and a new season.  However, right now in my life the ten tracks presented in “Repetitions” demonstrate my stability here at UVM.  “While unusual noises suggested mechanical faults” to the factory workers, and “familiar sounds were a comfort to both drivers and workers,” I find comfort in the familiar sounds I hear from the time I wake each morning, to the time my head hits the pillow (Bijsterveld 161).

 

Works Cited 

Bijsterveld, Karin. “Listening to Machines.” The Sound Studies Reader. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 152-167. Print.

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

Horowitz, Seth. “The Science and Art of Listening.” New York Times. 9 Nov 2012. Web. .

Schafer, Murray. “Open Ears.” Thinking About Sound.