I’m not sitting at my desk, a bit nauseous from the marriage between the smell of the neighbours’ burning meat party and the after-effects of a stomach bug I had a couple of weeks ago (not to mention the vat of gin and tonic I drank last night during Ghana’s cruel defeat by Uruguay and the hand of god 2.0). I’m in an Autumn forest.
Before that, I was back in New Zealand, in the rainy Waitakeres. And before that? Standing by the sea.
Yes indeed, I have discovered ambient sound. I was introduced to it when I went to stay with the lovely Dr Tara and her family. The have a CD of the ocean they use to get their toddler off to sleep, and the sound of gently breaking waves seemed to work a treat – on me, too. I had one of the most restful nights I’ve ever had. And I have long been jealous of the ideal writing situation described in Don Paterson’s ‘The Alexandrian Library, Part 2’.
I highly recommend ambient soundscapes and their ilk. They’re great if you have trouble concentrating or sleeping, as I do and/or if you live in an area where there’s a lot of building or road works and/or if you have noisy neighbours, as I sometimes do. Though I have yet to come across any soundscape like the one Paterson describes:
Buenos Aires, Early Evening, 1897,
At first, there seems to be nothing but tape-hiss
though it seeps imperceptibly into the white rush
of steam from a kettle of mate;
through the half-opened casement, a spatter of horse-trffic,
the shudders and yawns of a distant bandoneon;
from a bar on the opposite side of the street,
over the blink of small glasses, two men
discuss metaphysics, or literature;
from previous listenings you know, in an hour or so,
the talk will come round to the subject of women,
and then to one girl in particular;
and end with the phthisical freshing of metal
(you will whack up the volume for this bit),
a short protestation that ends in a gurgle,
the screak of a chair-leg on ironwood parquet
and your man spanking off down an alley.
(excerpted from ‘The Alexandrian Library Part 2,’ by Don Paterson. In God’s Gift To Women, London: Faber, 1997, pp. 42-50.)