Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blog 1: What I Hear

A sound walk is exactly what its name suggests it to be: a walk focused on sounds; it is where a stroll is dedicated to practicing the art of listening. In this fast paced society, mundane sounds get devalued and become ignored. As a result, people lose awareness in the aesthetic experience and benefits gained by listening to their current environment. A sound walk is then a perfect solution to this. Through it, people can appreciate the simple things in life and may sense things they wouldn't have otherwise. 

Urban places like New York City seem to be one of the most ideal places for a sound walk because of the diversity and abundance of sound it produces. However, those who prefer nature would find a sound walk to be more appropriate in a rural environment. A good setting to find a combination of these opposing situations is in Sunnyside, Queens. It is close to the city, fairly dense while maintaining a less chaotic environment where certain aspects of nature can still be found. After all, the reason why it is called Sunnyside is because it used to be a place of small farms and marshlands. 

I took my sound walk an hour before today's twelve o'clock mass. Just after I left the apartment building, I was greeted by the sound of a strong gust. I thought it was a pleasant start to this experience; I took it as a kind of hello from the upcoming fall season. I then walked down the sidewalk where my curiosity had forced me to stop in front of a Korean religious center. There were drums banging, guitars playing along with other different instruments, and a man singing his lungs out to the point where his diction was barely present. He was so focused on singing and reciting the lyrics as fast as he could that the sound he made seemed singular like a word made up of a million letters. 

As I continued, I heard the footsteps of a little boy rushing. When he got closer, I noticed that he was his aunt had gone missing and he was trying to find her. He kept saying out loud the word ‘tia,’ which means aunt in Spanish, in a worried inquisitive tone. At this point, I was beside the church on my way to the park. As I walked further away from the boy, I heard an old man try to help him which pleased my ears as I knew how the boy felt because the same had happened to me as a kid. 

Passing the church’s stained glass window, I overheard the Spanish mass in session. What interested me about this experience was the sound their mass made compared to the English version. You’d think it everything else sounded the same besides perhaps the language spoken. But, what my ears found out that they sang different songs, not translated versions either. Also, they used different instruments. I heard a guitar: an instrument I never hear or see during the twelve o’clock mass. 

After that, came the subtle sounds: the lone dry leaf scratching the concrete sidewalk as it was pushed by the wind, the jingle of a dogs leash as it hits the collar, the footsteps and breathing of joggers as the run on the asphalt against passing cars. I also got my fair share of cell phones ringing and car alarms; those were annoying to listen to. 

By the park, I heard a big group people playing soccer. I heard the ball being kicked and knocked about with everyone’s legs; I heard the ball scratching the concrete floor as it zooms from player to player; I heard the ball graze the net, making that swoosh sound. Then, more subtle sounds: the gate squeaking and it banging on the lock mechanism causing the lever to fall thus locking itself; I heard the cooing of a baby and a few little ones playing in the toddler’s jungle gym; I also heard the occasional birds chirping about which was normal for my ears especially in that location. However, a noise stuck out. Something I don’t usually hear in Sunnyside. It was so weird I tried looking for the source right away. I found it sitting on the highest post; it was a seagull making noise.