Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Quiet vs Silence

I had to write a paper for a class once, I think it was in college, about sound. I can't remember if it was for a music appreciation class, or possibly english or maybe science? The gist of the assignment was to try and find silence and then write about the experience. The point likely being that we are surrounded by sound always, many times not even realizing it. Back ground noise, white noise, stuff you just tune out. Quiet is achievable but complete silence is hard to find. Of course you are going to hear and notice the honk of the car picking up the neighbor kid for school, the music coming from your son's downstairs bedroom, the chatter on the TV, the cows mooing in the field behind your house, your daughter's mindless whistling of the same tune over and over again.

I think we are pretty good at tuning certain sounds out, once we get used to them. I can be completely oblivious to electronic game music from the iPad, our 5 chirping parakeets, even the aforementioned whistling. To escape this noise Bryan frequently has to take refuge in his man cave. That being said, he is able to sleep right through the noise of a crying baby in the middle of the night, or the continuous chirping of a smoke detector with a battery that needs to be changed...sounds that get my attention immediately.

My point is....quiet is achievable and oftentimes desirable. But silence is frequently broken by such tuned-out, previously unnoticeable things such as the house settling, a creak in the floorboards as you walk down the hall, water running through the pipes, a car driving past an outside window....if you really take the time to listen.

Today my house seems quiet. I am home alone and have not turned on the radio or TV. The dishwasher is not running, I'm not tumble drying any loads of laundry. But my house is not silent. Besides the tap, tap, tap of my fingers on the keyboard as I type this, I hear a constant hum. From my bedroom upstairs it's mostly white noise. But it sounds a bit like the engine of an airplane or cruise ship. Downstairs the sound is much louder, to the point of having to raise my voice if I were to try and talk to anyone.

There are ten industrial fans plugged into various outlets and blowing air into two bedrooms, the hallway and the storage room. When the irrigation water was turned on by the city and released into our sprinkler pipes yesterday, a pipe in the manifold next to Julianne's basement bedroom cracked under the pressure, and we ended up with untold gallons of water leaking under the window, seeping down the walls and spreading throughout the bedroom and into the hall. A disaster recovery company arrived a few hours later and in their wake left said fans to dry things out.

It's not an irritating noise. It's a sound I can mostly tune out from upstairs. But its constant engine like hum is indeed ever present. I'm sure the sound is masking other noises I would normally be hearing...sounds from outside, the creaking floorboards, etc. Maybe these fans, despite the sound they are making, are causing me to have an even quieter day than I would normally...

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