Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sounds Wonderful

Right now, stop what you're doing and listen. Hear anything?

If you're at home, you're probably surrounded by various neighborhood sounds. The springtime sounds in my suburb are made by the swarms of lawn-care crews running ungodly leaf blowers, chasing invisible clippings into adjoining yards for their service to clean up. (Does no one besides me mow their own grass these days?) If you're in an office, you've likely got the drone of some air-moving machinery, a slight hum from your computer and the light fixtures, and maybe some traffic noise if you're lucky enough to be placed near a window. What's it sound like by you, right now?

Personally, I can't handle silence. I need something happening in the background to work, and at least since college, that "something" has been music, supplied then by hauling my Walkman and a couple of cassettes down to an isolated study carrel, and now by CDs piped through my computer's speakers. Even having the volume down low is better than no sounds at all. And I've added a thrift-store travel alarm clock to the mix -- mechanical, of course -- just for the steady tick-tick-tick it makes in the background. I need this noise, to keep me grounded in the real world. Coding datbases is a solitary, silent existense, and I guess I need a little reminder where I really am when my head is full of tables and queries and joins.

There's a discussion going now on one of the mailing lists about musical typewriters: not typewriters that make music, but that are designed for printing it onto the page. Maybe what I need here is my own typewriter music -- a regular click-tap-click of a machine being put through its paces, measuring and marking off ideas like this little clock measures off the seconds. Sounds wonderful to me. Anyone up for sitting nearby and providing me with a little mechano-musical accompanyment? The pay's not great, but the audience is rapt.


Mike Speegle said...

Wow, sorry, my PC is freaking out. Here is the post I've been attempting to make:

A-ha! Sound like a call-back to me. And I quote:

mpclemens said...

Ha! Dang yuppie. (j/k)

It makes a good point, actually. I wonder how many other people there just totally tuned you out?

Hmm, I think I smell a money-making idea here. "WILL TYPE FOR AMBIANCE, $5/page"
February 25, 2009 2:25 PM
In other news, the sounds that surround me are the hum of the air-conditioning (good call), the clatter of keyboards, and the dim sounds of "Aqualung" coming from someone's speakers. I, being of the short attention-span generation, usually have a window in the upper-right of my monitor streaming something from Hulu or Netflix, but there is a corporate evaluator here, so I'm keeping a low profile. The lack of entertainment drives me nuts, though. Sad, really.

mpclemens said...

I am nothing if not repetitive.

Mike Speegle said...

Same here. I have a penchant for retelling the same 25 stories over and over again without realizing. Luckily, my recollection is so bad that they evolve with time and in proportion to the amount of theatrics I feel up to. Makes me feel bad for my son. "Yeah, Dad, ya told that one already. Like a million times."

Elizabeth H. said...

Strangely enough, I was just thinking about doing a post about silence. My own feelings about noise fall to pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum. Oh, I'm OK with machinery sounds and street sounds and random conversations, but I don't do well with stuff like radios playing in the background or the TV on. Because, a good portion of the time, I end up listening--concentrating on the noise. And I can't think and listen at the same time.

And I've come to realize I do better with some think time. Over the past few weeks, I've left the radio off in the car, and made a conscious effort to leave the noisemakers off elsewhere as well. Suddenly I have time to daydream and let my thoughts sort themselves out. Ahhh.

But I know. I'm different thataway.

mpclemens said...

I don't think any of us exactly register on the "normal" scale, Elizabeth. :-) Some noises drive me up the wall, and completely demand my attention. The tree guys were positioned near my office building last week and were running their chipper for about three days straight, which nearly drove me batty. But a ticking clock is fine, and most instrumental music is fine.

I find it very hard to work to music I'm not familiar with, though, as I do tend to concentrate it. I wore out several tapes in college because of this. Once I know it, though, it falls into the background.