Sound Pictures

About a decade ago I stumbled across an idea I call taking “sound pictures”.  I was sitting having coffee in a little European cafe and Iwas struck by how different what I was hearing was from home.  With most countries having their own tongue and with nations being closer together than many US states, speaking several languages is a necessity.  It is not unusual to hear three or four languages being spoken simultaneously.

While a portion of the music I heard in shops, bars and restaurants was songs I knew, much of it in Europe was foreign to me.  I learned about several artists and groups I would never have known about had I not traveled and paid attention to what I was hearing.  On each visit my music taste has broadened a bit more.

The sounds of the streets in European cities are unique.  The trams are different than trains here and often run right down the middle of streets where cars drive and people walk.  Mostly running on electricity the trams make much different noises than I’m accustomed to and the bells they clang sound unique in each country.  In some Euro-nations bicycles are everywhere and have their particular clatter.  Buses make distinctive noises and even car horns make sounds unique to European countries. 

Then there are the emergency vehicles that have sirens and warning sounds that are unique to Europe.  Most people in the United States have knowledge of them though movie exposure and recognize the sirens instantly as “foreign”.

It was in Europe where I first began to close my eyes for minute or two at a time while listening very closely to what sounds I was hearing.  I let what was in audible range soak into me until I had captured a “snapshot in sound” and stored it within my mind securely.  Even though those initial “sound pictures” were made over a decade ago, I can close my eyes and focus on a particular place and almost instantly the sounds of being there come back to me clearly.  Sometimes the images in sound I recorded mentally contain more detail and memory than actual photographs I took!  Further, it is not unusual that seeing any image of a place I visited will cause a “sound picture” to instantly pop into my head.  It is a unique experience.  

Being in New York City on business for the last couple of days I have had the opportunity to take a few “sound pictures”.  The street soundsare distinct in their intensity and frantic nature.  Human voice on the street in the Big Apple is noticeable in its absence.  People just don’t talk much on the streets in NYC unless they are tourists.  Here and there people do yell at each other, but they don’t talk much on the sidewalks and in the streets.

Restaurant ambience in general is louder in New Yorkand is a match for the overall high volume the great city has in general.  Then there are the street performers, while not particularly distinctive to NYC they lend dintinctive sounds to life in the big city.

I am grateful to have spent a morning on the 3rd floor pool and spa level of the New York Athletic Club where I was staying.  The institution dates back to the last 25 years of the 19th century and is a classy old world kind of place.  There I sat with my eyes closed taking in the varied accents I was hearing.  The moving water from the swimmers in the huge pool echoed off the cavernous walls and forty foot ceiling.  There was voices of attendents taking care of the guests and the sound of doors opening and closing.  As those sounds surrounded me I captured a mental “sound picture” of my morning experience that is now part of the memories in my mind.  That new “snapshot” is now cataloged with all the others safely in my memory.

The more I have participated in the practice of taking “sound pictures” the keener and more discerning of individual sounds I have come to be able to be.  I notice nuances far better over time than I ever did originally.  I am grateful for this unique practice even though I have no idea exactly where the idea came to me from.  Thankfulness for the wonderful places I have gotten to visit is greatly enhanced by my memories in sound I have carefully filed away.   That added dimension helps to keep recollections vibrant and alive.

i am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit New York City on this trip for just about the right amount of time for me which is three days.  I am ready to head westward toward home, but now have new Big Apple “sound pictures” to take home with me.  They are more of the simple gifts of living that I am grateful for. 

 We do not remember days; we remember moments.  Cesare Pavese