Listening from Afar

Via social media

Some of my earliest regular Twitter activities involved simply posting descriptions of what I heard: the whir of cars driving by, the droning inside a train, the birdsong outside a window. I consider such posts a form of field recording, just using words instead of a microphone (a perspective I wrote about at more length a few years ago at This activity happened back during a more civilized age, before social media became the conflicted zone it is today. These days it takes some solid muting and circumscribed attention to keep Twitter to something approximating useful and enjoyable. Once in a while I’ll go back to that old habit, and post what the world sounds like at a given moment. And sometimes the world answers back, not with an echo, but with reports from elsewhere, and not just on Twitter, but via Instagram and Facebook, where I’ll post as well. This is what I posted this past week:

Evening sounds: dishwasher and low-level electric hum. A single car passes, producing a light rumble, felt as much as heard*, neither all that much. Time passes. No foot traffic. No animal sound. No voices.**
*Yeah, hearing is a physical sensation.
**Yeah, humans are animals.

And these are responses I received:

1: the loud cyclical white noise pulse of the AC fan and it’s low frequency throb felt through my desktop. Rain splatter on the steel AC case, rain splatter on the window glass, rain splatter on the plastic over the hole in the plastic AC side panel, all three distinct filters

2: An indistinct, muffled thump from who knows where, a cat meowing repeatedly somewhere outside, the crunch of tires on gravel fades out into the distance, wind blows through the trees.

3: There is a heat wave going on where I am. Lucky to have air con, which has been running constantly. Reminds me of the sound inside the cabin on a long haul flight.

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