Sound. Little molecules vibrating through a medium so the tiny bones in our ears can send signals to our brain to process. Even before we are fully developed, we hear our mother’s heartbeat and our father’s favorite music. Perhaps a dog is barking and a lawnmower buzzes around outside the window. As we grow, we learn what the different sounds are, and make our own. A child will learn the language that it is exposed to in the early years. In fact, the earlier the child learns multiple languages, the more likely they will stick. The young human will learn the difference between the sound of anger and disappointment, joy and fear, sadness and contentment. Laughter is communal and contagious. A scream activates the “fight or flight” response through adrenaline.
I have always been very attuned to my surroundings. If I had to choose, I would probably say that my strongest sense is sight. Sounds would have to be a close second. I have been almost obsessed with it since I was young. Everything from ringing bells to tree frogs croaking piqued my interest. During recess at school, I would go around tapping the various structures of the playground. I discovered the numerous tones and pitches. The sound of a basketball bouncing on concrete is distinctly different than a rubber kickball. I continued my journey through the years with musical instruments and tape recorders. I remember recording my voice on a mini-recorder and playing it back. Speeding it up the or slowing it down. Do current 10-year-olds even know what an audio tape is??
I also spent a lot of time outdoors in my early years. Florida exposed me to the sounds of nature. Frogs and crickets in the evenings were a normal occurrence. The quacking of ducks and fish jumping out of a stream. The crackle of a campfire at night and the sound of doves in the morning. The crashing waves of the ocean and the seagulls are a Florida classic.
I experienced the evolution of sound in digital gaming, from your basic 8-bit sound all the way up to full orchestra playing soundtracks. My first computer booted up with a loud fan, several beeps, and a disk drive spinning. Now, I can barely tell if my laptop is on.
The correct balance of sound can make your surroundings feel comfortable and even peaceful. An overused or unstable sound can break the background and become distracting. We find a variety of environments that are strictly controlled to create a mood. Theme parks are famous for this. The masters of design at Disney® control every inch of their parks. There are sounds and music that match the area of the park you are in. When you are walking from one area to another, there is a gap in the speakers to help you adjust to the new music. If there was too much overlap, it would be too loud or too disorganized to enjoy the experience. Some restaurants will have music on speakers and televisions all tuned to different stations. The 3 or 4 different streams of sound become intertwined and jumbled. Some of the humans enjoy this amount of energy flowing through a room. I would not be included in that group.
The human ears and brain working together are fascinating. If you are in that noisy room, you can still focus on the conversation of your friends and the other sounds blend into the background. You can do this when listening to music if the recording is clear enough. Focus in on one instrument and notice the others fade.
Much of my adult life has been filled with the sounds of an office. The company I work for actually pipes in white noise. We wear headsets that cover our ears to block out our work neighbors’ conversations. After work, I hear the wind howl and bounce off the parking structure. The crunching of ice beneath our boots echoes against the high building walls. A car struggles to start and then comes to life with a roar before settling into an idle.
Even in the remote places of the world there are sounds. Did you know that ice can sing? Even a quick clap on the edge of a canyon will go on for miles. For me, a thunder storm with heavy rain is my favorite. Several parts of nature coming together to bring you a symphony of sounds. What is your favorite sound?