#TinyRevolutions of (sonic!) Connection

Adventures in sound during self-isolation

I’ve just spent a period of time self-isolating in my tiny flat close to Waterloo, South London. It’s been a humbling experience where I have reflected a lot about people whose lives are restricted on a more permanent basis. Like many people in cities, I don’t have a garden or outside space. So I’ve taken to making short sound recordings as way of keeping connected beyond my four walls.

But how can a sound create tiny connections?

Whilst some might find the idea of sitting still and listening rather isolating, I find lots of hidden potential in sound to help us connect.

  • In a time when it is hard to stop worrying, I find that zoning in on sounds in my environment helps me shift my thoughts and re-set my focus. 
  • Sounds bring us closer to nature, to the signs of life often hidden around us. It reveals the urban or rural rhythms sewn into our immediate landscapes.
  • Sound offers a different perspective on things we take for granted. It can spark memories, and it helps us to imagine.
  • You can record sounds on almost any mobile phone. And then Whatsapp them to friends or others in isolation, giving them close-up snapshots of your daily potterings – like a kind of sonic postcard!
  • Or you can just listen: to the environment, to things that often get lost in noise. Listening is a muscle we can flex, a lesson in empathy, and a skill we can share.

What does your environment sound like? What kind of sounds from your daily life could you share with others? Here’s a set of noises I’ve gathered from around my abode (and some observations I’ve gleaned from them!)

Trains are constantly trundling past my front door

My home stands next to a train line, which dominates my sense of where I live. All day long I hear train horns and wheels in motion. Mechanical sounds that are typically urban. In this recording I noticed a there is a very rhythmic pattern where the wheels hit a section of track. The train takes on a more animated character as it makes music with the track.

A bird lives in the tree by my back window

On the opposite side of my living room there is a world of surprising stillness. I’ve discovered a bird outside my window. I realise it is conversing with another bird (just about audible).

Mustard seeds popping (and other aromas)

I love making dhal for comfort when I’m ill. I love the process of layering flavour, dropping seeds, spices, and onions into hot frying oil. Hearing this part of the cooking process reveals another way of sensing and enjoying my food (particularly useful if illness is playing about with your taste buds).

Dhal

And here’s the sound of my dhal! I sent this clip to my grandma (the master dhal maker of my family). I can’t share the food with her for now, but hope she’ll appreciate I’m keeping the tradition going.

We welcome your sonic connections – email them and/or links (embed codes are very helpful!) to Stella to share with our other Tiny Revolutions.