Monday, February 04, 2008

Listen out / Listen down

While practicing listening downwards into the inner nucleus of the buzz of hallway lights outside of my apartment door, I found myself distracted by the outer sounds I kept hearing. Therefore, before focusing on what was going on at deeper levels of fluorescent lighting, I let myself focus outwardly.

Starting from the light I was standing under and moving outwards, I became aware of the fact that once I stopped to really listen, I could hear everything from the clanging of dishes in apartment 3A to (unfortunately) my neighbor relieving himself over in 4B. Beyond this, cars were easily audible from the street out front, with a couple dog yaps and childrens' squeals piercing their way over from the building on the other side of the road. Moving further out still, I could trace the sound of more traffic rushing down the streets that criss-cross through the East Village, out towards the Williamsburg Bridge. Moving upwards, you can also detect the sound of wind swaying winter bare branches, to the flap of someone's drying rug outside of some unit above, all the way up to the dull scream of a jet slipping across the sky to I can't say where. Actually, the plane felt almost as loud as the cars cruising by out front of my building.

Having got that out of the way, it was easier to come back to think about the lowly light whose buzz nonetheless always caught my attention. It's not just these particular lights in my hallway; it's fluorescent lights with their buzz in every hallway that I've ever been in that catch my attention, specifically when I'm sitting in the stairwell trying to focus on anything to keep myself from being sick, usually around 4am after a party has gone on too long. Listening long enough, you can pick out the different layers of sound, overlapping each other like scratchy gauze. The different frequencies even seem to move in and out of phase with one another, creating a hypnotic lull of monotonous shifting audible vibrations.

For reference, here's a recording of the lights just outside my door.

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