Saturday, April 25, 2009

Still Writing

Sound Of The City

Awake, at the crack of 10:30.

This morning, like many mornings, I am awakened by the sounds of human activity. I wrote a song about it in 1970, called, "The Sound of the City".

I heard it one evening,
when I was looking at a piece of property in the Oakland/Berkeley hills. Astro Johnny had invited some of us up onto the hillside so we could see the view from where he thought it would be a great spot to build a house. As we climbed the hill and gazed upon the cities and the bay below, I noticed that we were also climbing up and out of a, "sound".

It was as thick as fog,
and the way I heard it, it was like a layer of sound so thick it could be felt until I climbed high enough up the hillside to rise above it. When it was still lapping at my knees, I turned to Louie and asked him if he could see and feel this, "sound fog", that we were climbing out of. He looked at me questioningly and said, "What sound"?

"The sound of the city"
, I said, waving at the vista of Oakland, Berkeley, and the Bay Bridge reaching across to San Francisco, twinkling in the distance. "Where you are standing, it comes up to your knees. Listen to what you hear now, then take a few steps down while you listen closely."

I watched as he descended
below the surface of the lake of sound. Soon he was playing in the lake of sound. It was actually visible, if one looked for it. I could bend down and stick my hand in it and actually feel the substance of the sound, it was that thick. It was the accumulated detritus of noisy human activity below. The sound of the city.
I wrote a song about it.
Louie Shwartz and I played it a few days later during a gig in Berkeley. I think Bob Raines played drums.

I revisited the Sound of The City
, in 1995 during a visit to Richmond. While I was out in Marians backyard I listened to the sound chowder of Bart, the railroad, I-80, cars and other accumulations of human audio poop, and I noticed the birds were singing loud and furiously to hear each other above the noise. Later I read an article about a study of birds in urban environments, and how they have changed their songs to make them distinguishable in the midst of the city sound scape. This is important because the male bird with the best song gets the girls. If the girls cant hear you, not only do you not get any whoopee, you are the last of your bloodline! I wonder if the city birds impress the country gals when they are passing through town.

I added more verses
and a bridge to Sound of the City and recorded that version in Carmel Valley. It was okay, and I have a copy of that recording, but it was never all that I hear in my head, so I set it aside. for awhile.

Here in Redding,
where I live now, I am on a hill above the little town on the banks of the river. The sound is not a roaring soup, but more like a Wal Mart of sounds, emanating from different parts of the store and parking lot.

Here in my bedroom, in my apartment, at the Treehouse, the sounds are as close as my window. When the window is open, the sounds stream in and splash around the room until they settle on the carpet. This explains why it is noisier when I sleep on the floor. I can tell the height of my sleeping surface, by the level, (depth), and viscosity of the surrounding sounds.

Sound Portal

Where the sounds pour in. (I like the bird songs.)

When I am in my bed, (it rests on 6" risers, so I can rest 28" above the puddles of sound), I can adjust my perceptions to alter the sounds infiltrating my place of repose. Traffic sounds from Lake Boulevard can be transformed into the the sounds of waves washing the shore. Loud peoples voices become barking coyotes and calling crows. You get the idea. I can adjust the volume and the perception in my mind to where I can sleep through it.

I find it hard to sleep through
excessively loud trucks, honking horns, and, the most egregious nemesis of my circadian rhythms; Back-up Beepers!

We generally assume
that those purposely annoying devices are there to prevent people from getting backed over by a reverse moving vehicle. They are not there for the protection of others, they are there for the protection of the vehicle owner. If I have a back-up beeper and I run over some one while going in reverse, it's not my fault! I gave you fair warning, you can't sue me. The beepers are there to protect the insurance companies.

Every dump truck, school bus
, (one of the local school districts finally got a bus with seat belts for the kids), delivery van, and piece of rolling machinery has got an exponentially louder beeper than the next one.

This is particularly laughable
when it comes to garbage trucks. The back up beeper has to be louder than the already deafening machinery of the truck. This becomes a series of ironic jokes when you remember that the garbage trucks are scheduled to pick up our garbage while we sleep. This way they don't disturb us by blocking traffic.

Do back up beepers work?

The New York State Department of Health, after investigating an industrial accident, concluded that back-up beepers were completely ineffective: "Often, people who work near back-up beepers have become accustomed to their sound and desensitized to their use as warning signals."

I got the above information from Noise Free America, .
They have some interesting stuff about everyday noise makers that I found interesting.

Examining the effect of reflections in double pane glass.

So here I am with more noises to write about, and some good stuff to record it with. What ever shall I do?

Today's Relatively Appropriate Video;

City Crows -BBC

We are clever animals, too.

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