24 November 2010

Personal Auditory Space

The office heater's broken so I just stepped out for a cup of coffee and a yummy cupcake.

3 people on their own - doing some kind of work - like me! Next to me, a couple (I think they're a couple) talking about work, possible collaborations (I think they're artists). Upstairs, a lot of background noise, the kind of sound you would expect on an SFX track labelled "restaurant noise".

One of the guy starts talking into his phone - sounds "important", something about a table - he looks like an adrenalin-junkie, spotted him when he came in, thrives on his work.

And then suddenly PING - more like PIIIIIING - from the corner, a woman rings a bell, a chime - a tibetan flat bell. Interesting. I look up after a while (I am not going to admit I am intrigued by such a simple sound) to see if I can understand this contrast of two worlds: the lady and her companion are sitting perfectly still - why? What are they doing? Practising some performance skills? Meditating? And then his pen moves - phew, that's more "normal".

Intrigued (but not wantING to get caught staring) I continue with my work - and my cupcake.
And then, another high pitched sound, this time more in sync with its surroundings: cling, cling, cling. I have to look up and there she is, banging her spoon against her cup. She catches my eye, clings her spoon against the cup one last time and in a theatrical gesture she puts cup and spoon down, all the while holding my stare. I smile. What I really want to do is say: Please can you stop that annoying sound, can't you see there are other people here? But I don't. I smile. Because I'm scared. She thinks that I am amused by her, that I share her joy of making ping and cling noises. Phew - I'm off the hook, can continue with my work, knowing that now she knows that I am here and not afraid to make myself "heard".

I really wish I could shut my ears - my eyesight is pretty bad and so, to compensate, I have really good hearing. I'm also very sensitive to music and rhythm; and I was also brought up to keep my noise down for others in the household and the neighbours.

So yes, I feel threatened by sounds that invade my "hearing space" - probably more than bodies that invade my 'personal space. Why? I'm not sure - answers on a postcard... or an mp3 file if you must.

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