Similar to what Lauren B. has already commented on in her sound journal, I was pretty surprised myself at the variety of sounds that appeared around me. I was expecting this to be a fairly difficult assignment, since I’m more accustomed to taking in information visually rather than audibly, but if you actually sit down and listen in silence, there tends to be a lot going on. While a lot of sounds are definitely artificial, it became a bit easier to pick up on what sounded natural versus what was caused by something manmade, and I was also somewhat surprised to discover that it was fairly easy to pick up on the synthesized instruments from my neighbors’ music, something that I would otherwise have considered to be natural woven into a particular song. Certain sounds were definitely more interesting than others based on the variations that could be found in the sounds themselves – car tires on wet pavement and the sound of a train horn were the ones that provided the most interesting and most difficult descriptions for me, since I know what they are but simply saying “car tires on wet pavement” doesn’t describe what I was actually hearing. Getting at the root of sounds and hearing them for what they are is difficult business, especially in situations where there was a steadier sound (like a ticking clock) more obvious, or human conversation which I was generally trying to ignore in favor of the other sounds that were happening around me.

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5 responses »

  1. marissaa18 says:

    2/15/12, 8:17 – 8:33 PM, 3rd floor Dakin Hall

    Variation 1: Describe sounds from neighbor’s room, muffled by wall between

    Throbbing, steady beat; vocals singing melody; synthesized instrumentation occupying middle between beat and vocals. Occasional conversational sounds from neighbors, muffled; occasional banging sounds of something striking the wall. New throbbing beat happens for a while, no vocals; volume increases. Throbbing beat, different from previous two beats, smooth synthesized sounds accompanying, sound vaguely song-like, voice chanting some form of lyrics. Conversation continues between neighbors, somewhat louder due to louder volume of other sounds in the room.

    Variation two: observation of how conversation moves, individual voices.

    Two male voices, one slightly more distinct and louder than the other. Second voice harder to hear, far less distinct, seems more as a murmur in the background, although responds to louder voice. Louder voice appears to be moving about. At the start of a new song (no throbbing beat – more of felt than heard beat, smooth and natural strumming sound, female rising vocals), voice that has been louder starts to accompany vocals playing on song. Less distinct voice appears to move slightly, coming into close proximity with previously louder voice. Less distinct voice appears to be slightly deeper, louder voice is youthful, tends to rise in pitch on certain emphases. Regular lulls in conversation, either real or perceived due to distance away from conversation. Voices sound similar when closer to listener, making it difficult to distinguish between the two speakers. Louder voice obviously dominating conversation, heard more often than other voice.

    Summary: Normally I block out the sounds of my neighbors’ music and their conversation, classing it in my brain as annoying noise rather than anything I want to pay attention to. However, their music, although heavily synthesized, is actually interesting and has several layers to it. Their conversation, although covered up by music so actual words are difficult to make out, also shows a range of pitch and volume that occasionally makes it easy to pick up syllables over their music. None of this would be noticeable if I continued to block it out like I had been to that point.

  2. marissaa18 says:

    2/17/12, 8:21 – 8:35 AM, South Dining Hall

    Variation 1: General description of sounds

    Clanking, banging. Indistinct conversational sounds. Random tinging sounds. Music in background – plinking at first, powerful female vocals when song changes. Beeps at random intervals, different from the tinging sound since it’s more synthetic rather than something that would be caused naturally although accidentally. Clicking/clattering sound, coming from two directions, one farther away. Two different droning sounds: breathy whoosh from above, deep electrical hum, unidentified direction. Short duration of a different electrical hum from a distance. Hissing sound lasts for about a minute, then disappears. Random rattles and jingling sounds from off to the left. Also a grinding sound that gets steadily louder for about 30 seconds before stopping. Re-enters the sound “scene” after about three minutes of absence, although moving away this time and eventually stops.

    Variation 2: picking up on the loudest/most noticeable sound

    Grinding sound towards end of sound session is definitely loudest sound, but the one that is constantly there and constantly noticeable is the clattering coming from off in the distance. It has a bit of an echo as well. Human conversation sounds the next loudest.

    Variation 3: the drone sounds

    Breathy whoosh sound is harder to catch, especially when faced with the presence of the electrical hum. Whoosh seems constant, no noticeable changes in it, but since it’s fainter than the other drone sound, the electrical hum, it’s hard to determine. Electrical humming sound is almost like a heartbeat – throbs fairly steadily and slowly, noticeable in the throbbing since it’s variation.

    Summary: As I tend to bury myself in a book while eating breakfast in the mornings, the quietest time of day, I miss the soundscape that’s around me in the dining hall. Sometimes I can catch the breathy whoosh at the edge of my hearing, but it’s harder to hear when you focus on it, unlike some of the other sounds that happen as the dining hall starts setting up for the day. There’s a lot going on audibly that I tend to block out, except for the occasional ‘beep’ since it’s unusual and cuts through everything else, but it’s a fairly rich listening experience.

  3. marissaa18 says:

    2/17/12, 12:50 – 1:11 PM, Amtrak Downeaster to Boston just pulling out of Portland

    Variation 1: General observations

    Blowing sound, somewhere between a buzz and a hum. Throbbing and rattling as motion begins. Blaring, three tones in harmony, that are long, extended sounds. Blaring happens about three times initially. Underlying hum, occasional screeching. There’s a throb/clatter that turns into a rumble, punctuated by the occasional click-clack sound. There’s a plastic shaking/rattling sound that’s pretty constant. Click-clack happens one approximately every minute and a half. There are also random bumping sounds, although the blowing sound is static and constant.

    Variation 2: observations of the blaring sound

    Rising sound, happens as a oddly harmonious discordant chord, melancholy. Typically happens either solo or in groups of two; if solo, it’s a long, drawn out sound, if in groups of two the first sound is shorter and the second longer, although not as long as the solo sound. Far more frequent upon departure than it is as the trip continues, happens at railroad crossings or upon pulling into or departing a station. Not present unless the train is passing by “civilization”.

    Variation 3: the loudest sound(s)

    Surprisingly, the buzz/hum sound of the blower is the most noticeable sound – since it’s breathy, it tends to rise above the other sounds of the train, and is coming from a source fairly close to where I was sitting. Absolutely never changes, never goes off as expected it might once the train got in motion. More present than the throbbing and rattling, since the throbbing is almost more felt than actually heard. Positioned above where I was sitting and in front, so easier to catch than other train sounds (not taking conversation into consideration).

    Summary: Trains have a lot of sounds going on, and train horns in particular are quite interesting if you actually sit down and listen to them. The horn typically sounds like a single note rather than a chord, so catching the fact that it was three notes was fairly interesting. Listening to the variety of sounds that come from a train rather than burying myself in a book like I would normally do is far more interesting than I thought it would be, since it’s fun to try to describe what sounds are based on what they sound like rather than based on imbedded knowledge.

  4. marissaa18 says:

    2/24/12, 8:45 – 9:08 PM, basement at home, MA

    Variation 1: sounds of traffic

    Fairly quiet night, so intermittent sounds. Most frequent sound occurring at irregular intervals is a wet hiss/whoosh sound of cars passing on wet pavement. Louder when passing in lane in front of house, still vaguely heard when farther away. Faint throbbing heard when cars slow down for traffic light, hiss/whoosh occasionally accompanied by a hum or a noise that sounds like it’s going “vrrrrr”. Hiss/whoosh sounds vaguely metallic. Occasionally accompanied by a whining sound. Faint pattering sound on windows. Difficult to focus on the outside with steady ticking sound inside nearby, as well as less rhythmic clicking from slightly further off, also inside. Certain hiss/whoosh sounds take longer to pass by hearing than others, most seem to take about three seconds, with random intervals of a few seconds to a minute or so between. Pattering has faded. At one point, hiss/whoosh sound was not heard as an object passed, but was instead replaced by a rough “vrrr” entirely, fairly loud and growing louder as it passed before dropping off abruptly. Hollow sound comes in about 9 PM, definitely outside, lasts for perhaps a minute, then fades away. There is an underlying sound that’s not quite a whoosh since it’s constant, very difficult to describe – seems to be “ffffssssss” or similar.

    Variation 2: Description of hiss/whoosh sound and various variations of it

    Certain sounds seem to be ascending in “notes,” from a barely perceptible hum to more noticeable hiss/whoosh at end before passing entirely out of hearing. These appear to be most common, occasionally interspersed with a sound that passes from the louder hiss/whoosh to the faint hum. Other sounds are definitely accompanied by a “vrrrr” sound, one that fades off with the hissing and distance. Whooshing seems to randomly be in the background – hissing is definitely the less perceptible part of the sound. Faint splashing sound seems to be heard fairly frequently with descending sounds, at tail end of the whoosh.

    Variation 3: Faint blaring sound about 9:02

    New sound comes to my attention. Short blasts of a blaring sound, sounds like one note and fainter than other sounds, so farther away, also sounds muddy – muffled by weather conditions? Comes in blasts until about 9:05, about half a second long. Coming from one direction, no particular pattern. Some come in fairly quick succession, others have longer interval between them. Disappears about 9:05 after a much fainter blast of sound.

    Summary: Not a lot of variety in sounds, as predicted, although more going on than I originally expected. I’ve been living on this fairly busy street my entire life and I have been listening to the sounds of traffic during or after a rainstorm for the same time, so it’s common and natural for me to block it out. Cars sound almost natural on wet roads, which is different from what they normally sound like, and everything appears to be a lot softer and harder to describe due to the softer quality of the sounds themselves and the fact that rain has some sort of power to muffle things enough that they sound entirely different and new.

  5. marissaa18 says:

    Sound Journal Entry 5: 3/23/12, 10:40 – 11:10 AM. Route 27, Farmington to Augusta (roughly), listening to my car/road sounds

    First, a disclaimer: I was a responsible driver while doing this exercise. As I drove and paid attention to the road, I just listened. I did not write down my observations until I was off the road eating lunch at a rest stop.

    Variation 1: General sound observations
    Faint humming of car, occasional rumbling sounds, both felt and heard. Whooshing sound from outside continual, occasionally louder and ragged sounding at times, for short durations (crosswind gusts). Other whooshing and whining sounds as cars pass going opposite direction. Longer whooshing sounds as cars pass from behind. Engine sound becomes a buzz when going uphill or pressing gas pedal harder.

    Variation 2: Differences in sounds of passing cars
    Sound varies on the individual vehicle, but general observations hold true. Big rigs and box trucks have a whine followed by a loud whooshing sound, which lasts longer than on other vehicles. Sedans, vans, small SUVs have a quiet whoosh, although sometimes louder depending on engine power of vehicle (one or two sounded louder than pickups due to powerful engines adding a growl to the sound). Pickups and large SUVs have a hollow sound, occasionally a loud sound of the engine. Vehicles passing from behind normally are a long, drawn-out whoosh sound, occasionally accompanied by a growl of engine (evident on trucks). Vehicles going below the speed limit or stopped vehicles don’t generate any sound when passed.

    Variation 3: Sounds of my car
    Quiet under conditions of flat road or road with small inclines, going at speed limit – barely discernible humming sound. Going uphill or accelerating, engine becomes a very loud buzzing sound, goes away when getting off the hill or slowing back to normal speed. Sort of a loud hum at slower speeds in Belgrade Lakes region (where speed limit drops to 25 – 35 MPH), more noticeable now that blowing sound of car cutting through air is gone. Brakes make a short, soft click when being let up, not all the time but every few. Not heard on prolonged braking, but only if tapped gently in order to control speed.

    Summary: Although my car is somewhat quiet in terms of engine sounds, doing a sound exercise while on the road was interesting since I heard things that I would normally ignore while driving, especially when I have music on. Listening makes you pay a lot more attention to what you’re doing – I was more visually aware as I was listening, especially when there were variations in the very quiet drone sound of my car’s engine (going uphill, passing cars going opposite direction, being passed) that I wanted to identify. As you drive, your car becomes an extension of you, in a tactile and visual sense, but also in a less obvious auditory sense. You notice when your car sounds strange when you’re driving it, but you get so used to the “normal” sounds of driving that you tend to miss what’s actually going on as your attention wanders.

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