My guess is that the soundscapes we inhabit influence our thoughts and emotions all the time. Sound is vibration, and vibration happening to the body must have some kind of effect. The purring of a cat has an effect on me even when the cat is not in direct contact. Louder and more invasive sounds are more apparent in their effects, but the regular, less noticeable sounds of our daily lives must impact on us too.
I notice how much calmer I feel when there isn’t any traffic noise. It’s rare to find places and times without it – I live in a small town. There are quiet lanes where the traffic noise doesn’t reach, and times of day when there’s little of it. I relax into the quiet and relish being able to hear more of those little sounds around me.
I’m lucky in that my spaces for living and working are quiet. I live with people who don’t need a lot of noise. The window is open, I can hear bird song, but I’m also aware of the hum of the computer.
I notice sound a lot when I’m travelling, be that in a car or by train. A journey is a relentless encounter with the noise of machinery in motion. This I find exhausting. It’s difficult to tell what is the effect of vibration and what of it belongs to the sound of vibration, but I notice the relief when the noise stops. I wonder what it does to a person doing long journeys regularly, with all that noise and buzzing.
Last night I lay under the trees where the jackdaws roost and listened as they came in and settled. This is a big roost, and the sound of them is magnificent, and loud enough that I feel it as well as hear it. I’ve been out for the jackdaws in this way before, and I notice the joy it brings up in me, the way the sound washes over me and through me and something inside me responds to it. The sounds of geese have a similar effect. I remember the feeling of hearing cranes out by the Severn.
I can’t tell what’s my emotional response and what is physically experienced. Bodies are all chemical interactions and electrical impulses and I’m not sure it really matters what starts where. What I am certain about is that I feel better in myself when I’m exposed to the right sounds. Like most people, I respond well to sounds of water, but I am also deeply affected by bird calls, by the wind in leaves and by having enough quiet to be able to experience the small sounds around me.