Outside Ambience - 09.20.99

The other night, I was finally able to open my bedroom window and enjoy the cool wind blowing through. Over the course of the past few months, it had been super-hot and humid and the air inside my apartment seemed to get a little more stale every day. I had opened windows up a couple different times in hopes that I could get some circulation and fresh air in the apartment, but each time it would only get more hot and uncomfortable than it had been previously to opening up.

With temperatures in the low 60s, I cracked open several windows in my apartment as far as they would go earlier in the evening. By the time I was ready to get into bed, the temperature had dropped considerably inside my apartment and the air felt just a little bit easier to breath than it had been. I flopped down on my bed and felt a cool breeze blowing across my legs. I closed my eyes and tried to drift off to sleep knowing that I had to work the next day.

Instead of falling asleep right away, though, I laid there in the dark and couldn't even get close to relaxing enough to actually sleep. Earlier in the night I had been listening to ambient music at a very high volume on my stereo. When I'm listening to ambient electronic music most of the times, I simply put it on in the background and go about my usual business while all the other sounds mingle in with the music and combine to make something new. As I listened to several different CDs over the course of the night, I found my mind venturing many times from the task at hand and focusing in on the music more than ever. I ended up hearing things that I'd never even heard before (proof that I should give more attention to much of the music I own, since I've probably missed out on bits along the way). By the end of the night, I actually found that my mind was breaking down each track I listened to into its specific elements then counting them up and figuring out when each one began and ended. The crazy part was that it was all happening even as I worked along at my computer.

I sat there and typed along while my ears bathed in synthesizer washes and other little found sounds and discovered many different things I had never even heard before. By the time I went to bed, my mind was buzzing from it all. When my head hit the pillow, my brain was still in dissection mode.

Instead of the usual 3 or 4 elements of sound that usually emanated from in and outside my apartment, I was bombarded with all kinds of new things from the outside world that the closed window usually sealed-off. Whereas usually I could only hear the clock in my living room slightly clicking over a steady hum of the city from outside and an occasional car passing by or drips from my leaking shower faucet, now there was a whole palette of new layers of sound trickling into my ears.

The most noticible of these was what I started calling the "cricket drone" in my head at that point. Perhaps hundreds of crickets chirping along at nearly the same volume in different intervals created a fairly loud wall of undulating sound that provided the backbone of the outside noises. Even louder than this was the steady chorus of 2 distinct frog croaks that I could hear, keeping a sort of primitive beat with their throaty noise. Beyond this, the usual hum of the city was there, but it was a little louder than normal and sounds from the street were amplified as well. The completely unrhythmic pattern of cars passing by the street combined with the steady pulse of frogs and drone of crickets made for quite a nice listen.

Even as I thought that was it, though, more elements made themselves known to my ears. Occasionaly and very silently, I could here the horn of a train in the far distance. Barely making its way through the rest of the sounds in the night, it sounded more like the beacon of a long lost lighthouse than it did the warning sound of a large freight vehicle. Even more random noise manifested itself in the distant sirens of an ambulance and following in its wake was a string of dogs barking at the loud noise they had heard. Although it was far off and I was laying in bed, there was almost a stereo effect to the dogs barking and it made me smile thinking of a crossfader sliding across blocks and blocks of the city to perfect the barks.

As I had filed everything away and into its respective place in my head, I could again hear the very steady click of my living room clock and an almost undiscernable pattern of drips coming from my bathroom. The sounds that had been in the forefront for the past several months were now nothing more than a very minor element in the mix and I liked it that way. After almost an hour of just listening to it all, my mind finally gave way and focused in on the distant train horns. For something that was designed to be a warning, they sure soothed me to sleep.