SOUNDSCAPE

The sounds that we now hear

A lot of people around the world don't want to hear the inner voice.

In Summary
  • In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic however, these sounds of human endeavour, the noise, have been relegated to the background.
  • Stay home, stay safe and fear not that inner voice.

I live in a terraced housing estate and the house next door is unoccupied. The curious thing about this vacant house is nobody has lived there for almost three years but that said, all too often the owners of the property swing by to do major renovations on the place.

I’m talking the kind of repair and rebuilding work that engenders welding, grinding, the banging of walls, and headaches caused by fumy house-paint. It is for this reason I call this house the Lego house – a house nobody lives in that’s always being repaired, dismantled and rebuilt. They were at it again all of last week, and even as I write this the infernal racket of construction work continues.

So, assailed as I am by the noise from next door, I decided I might as well write about sound. All over the world, with Covid-19 lockdowns, curfews, and restrictions forcing us to cut back, or stop entirely our everyday activities, sounds we ordinarily don’t get to hear are now being heard. The soundscape is subtly changing.

 

A soundscape is the acoustic environment as perceived by humans. It consists of three main components – Biophony, Geophony and Anthropophony.

Let’s break those down, starting with Biophony. This refers to the collective sound produced by animals in a given habitat. This is to say the sounds made by desert snakes, birds, animals and other creatures, are different from that made by forest creatures. Meaning, the Biophony in the desert is not the same as that of a forest.

Geophony relates to naturally occurring sounds made by non-living elements. These include the sound of water in a stream, waves in the ocean, the wind in the trees, rain, storms and even the sound generated by earth itself – glaciers, avalanches and earthquakes.    

As for Anthropophony, all sound generated by human endeavours falls in this category, whether it be coherent such as music, theatre and language, or incoherent and chaotic (ie noise), such as sounds of electromechanical origin resulting from the use of industrial technology.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic however, these sounds of human endeavour, the noise, have been relegated to the background. This has in turn allowed room for Biophony and Geophony – the sounds of nature, to be heard. People can now hear birds in Western capitals due to the absence of traffic, and seismologists are having an easier time of it now that there are fewer humans and their machines moving about.

But there’s another sound, I feel, that we are now hearing as we find ourselves less occupied and indoors, sometimes alone or with just our immediate family. It is the sound of our inner voice.

I don’t think though a lot of people around the world want to hear this voice. It is for this reason perhaps why many are jeopardising their health by attending parties and locking themselves in bars after curfew and during lockdowns. I think they seek the noise of others, the noises of the world, so as to drown out the sound of that inner voice.

 

All I can say to them is stay home, stay safe and fear not that inner voice.

Listen to your own voice, your own soul. Too many people listen to the noise of the world, instead of themselves – Leon Brown.