Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In the Kingdom of Sound

Today I was struck by the sound of somebody tap-tap-tapping on a computer keyboard, which I always find a deliciously chunky sound. It made me think of other sounds that delight me:

1) Annoucements over the tannoy in supermarkets. Maybe because they remind me that there is a life going on there all the time, a life "behind the shelves" as it were. When I was younger me and my little brother were fascinated by a mysterious "extension seventeen" to which our local supermarket's employees were often summoned by the tannoy. It lay behind a curtain of translucent plastic strips and was mysteriously dark and warehouse-like.
2) The sound of a crow cawing. Though I love the phrase "putting the crows out of business", I never understood it. I would rather listen to a crow than to some tweeting songbird any old day of the week. Their cawing is so earthy and rugged.
3) The sound of a crowd singing in unison-- especially when "in unison" is a polite fiction. I love choral, unaccompanied singing, I like it best when it is a large amount of people, and I like it most of all when it is out of time and gloriously ragged.
4) The sound of a lady's high-heels tapping on the pavement, especially at night.
5) The sound of bangers. This is topical at the moment because this is banger season in Ballymun. As long as I can remember, my home suburb of Ballymun has been alive with fireworks and bangers for the whole month of October and indeed well before. Lots of people complain about this but I absolutely love it.
6) The sound of children playing in a schoolyard, especially heard from a distance.
7) The sound of children playing in the avenue outside my house.
8) The crackle of a fire, especially a bonfire.
9) ALL the sounds that water-pipes make; their mysterious tapping, the wind whistling and sighing through them, and the many other miscellaneous noises they produce. Especially nice to listen to when you are soaking in a warm bath.
10) The sound of an old man singing to himself. I think it one of the most dignified sounds of all. I always remember my Uncle Willy (who was not then old but seemed ancient to me) singing "The Fields of Athenry" while he was sprucing himself up in his farm-house bathroom. The way his gentle voice echoed off the tiles and filled the house has always remained with me.
11) The sound of music being played in supermarkets, pubs, caf├ęs, or other public places. Especially gentle, contemplative songs. It always thrills me that such music seems to be overheard rather than heard. I remember particularly sitting in an empty cinema before the screening and hearing the Carpenter's song "Solitaire".
12) Probably my favourite sound of all-- the hum of voices in the air, where it is impossible to make out individual words or voices. To me it is quite simply the sound of life.

Sounds I don't like:

1) Bells.
2) The jingle of an ice-cream van.
3) The romance languages. I don't get the appeal. I'd much rather listen to a German or Russian speaker.

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