Monday, February 13, 2012

The Sound Walk

            I spent an hour in the early evening (around 5pm) doing a sound walk in my hometown of Cambria Heights, Queens. It was interesting performing this activity because Cambria Heights, a suburban area, is generally quiet. During the night, the neighborhood develops a peaceful steady rhythm. A silent melody of low hums created by the intermixing of the wind, planes in the sky and cars passing by set the backdrop sound. They (at least at this hour) are always constant. The low hum of Cambria Heights is however distinctly different from the constant rumble of Times Square. Yet, is also far off from the deafening silence of Islip, Long Island.
            As I listened, the Cambria Height’s "hum" varied with time and location. The later it got, the quieter it got as cars and the occasional by would come less frequently. The heightened laughter and conversation of the occasional group walking by lessened as the sun went down. I felt as if the atmosphere of the neighborhood had changed. The by passers coupled with the background hum made the neighborhood feel like a quiet yet inhabited residential area. When the hum rose to prominence and the bystanders went silent, the neighborhood felt desolate and mechanical. Similar to the by passing pedestrians, certain birds could also be heard during the early part of the evening also contributing to the lively atmosphere of they neighborhood. The birds too, also became quiet as night came.
            Cambria Heights not only offers sound clues for what time of day it is, it also offers sound clues as to where you are in the neighborhood. If you hear something like a car only more powerful, accompanied by a sort of high pitched spinning sound chances are you are near a bus stop. The closer you are to the bus the louder it becomes. The buses create sound marks allowing someone in the neighborhood to know that they are located near a bus route. If you hear cars at a much quicker pace than the normal hum, you are likely to be on Francis Lewis Boulevard, a roadway in which cars are move faster and are more frequent.  More bypassers are likely to be heard on Linden Boulevard, yet by nightfall, they are also driven to silence and the Cambria Height’s Hum takes over once again.