Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Few Notes On Home Interiors, Hardwood Floors and the Accoustics of Place

Went back to Bay Village, Ohio this past weekend with Cathy and the girls. It's my old hometown and my parents still live in the old house I grew up in. I shared my old bedroom with Abby, which since my Mom is what you might call an interior design hobbyist, no longer looks anything like my room did when I stopped being its sole occupant. It's got what I'd describe as a Cape Cod cottage feel to it. Rustic with a hint of a welcoming beach. Lake Erie is less than a 10-minute walk away, after all.

The whole house has this rustic cottage feel to it now. I'm still not used to it. My Mom's a bit of an art and craft show junkie. She'll go and buy things like folksy Halloween figurines made from twigs or antique Kris Kringle's that look quaintly Pennsylvania Dutch. Where once most of our house was covered in carpet, the two main floors are now entirely hardwood. Without the carpet to absorb sound, the acoustics of the house have radically changed. More echo. Voices carry further. The house creaks more.

I was more attentive to the sounds around my parent's place this visit. I was trying to capture them with my video camera and microphone. Some representations of the sounds that best defined certain places in and around my parent's place. I've always liked the fact that a thin strand of woods (thick and enchanted when I was a child though sadly neutered of most of its trees now) is all that separates my parent's home from the local public elementary school. It's where my two older brothers and I attended school back in 70s. It has a couple playgrounds on either end of it, and when you're sitting on the porch off my parent's room you can't help but be charmed by the sound of playground chatter gently drifting over the trees.

It's become this kind of culturally shared sonic cliche, a nostalgic signifier, the sound of children playing on a playground. You hear it, and Hollywood audience tests have no doubt proven, that over 90% of us feel this particular sound is indicative of something both innocent and wistful. It gives us a joyful ache and our response to it is practically Pavlovian. None of which should detract from just how great this sound really and truly is at its most authentic. I like that a live soundtrack of playground chatter has been playing a 180 school-day gig behind my parents house for several decades now. It's one of the main protagonists in the soundscape I spent my formative years in and I don't think it's too far a stretch to imagine how it played a key role in shaping my own fascinations with ambient sound and sound design.

No comments: