Sounds of Life

The New York Times does some extraordinary things with OpDocs — in this case, a half hour of sounds around the world. You probably need fairly fast wifi for the documentary to play. Occasionally mine hung up, which I was able to move along by scrolling up one panel and then back down.

The documentary makes this observation: sound is one of the first things we experience in the womb, and sound is thought to be the last thing that expires at the time of our death. But in between, we are mostly a visual people. We concentrate on what we see.

This documentary offers us the chance to hear: bat sounds deep in a cave, molten lava moving toward the sea, fish and coral living around undersea reefs, lemur couples in Madagascar, rats in New York, a forest of genetically identical aspen trees swaying in the wind, a bus terminal in Lagos, Nigeria, an offshore wind farm, salt cracking on the surface of a Chilean desert — there are eleven panels all together. The experience is fascinating.

I think of times when I enter an experience mostly for the sound, like a symphony performance. I’m reminded of Archie’s first day care experience, when the infant room was staffed by Somali women who comforted and soothed the children and lulled them to sleep with rhythmic clicking sounds. I’m aware that one of the chief attractions of the villa I rent in rural Panama is that the master bedroom is only steps from the sea, and I can hear the sound of waves gently lapping on shore as I wake up.

What about you? Are there sounds that anchor you to a particular place, or a particular experience?

I think that after listening to this I’m going to be more attuned to the sounds of my day.

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