sounds of living in a box

00:00 / 00:40

a dripping faucet / a professor leading a virtual lecture in the other room

     People spend all day hearing things. Mostly we talk to each other, interpret the affective prosody of another's voice and tweak our own in response. I sometimes talk too much. I sometimes grow to resent this talking. All I do is talk and think, thinking being nothing more than a reverberating loop of quiet conversation with myself.

     During the statewide COVID-19 lockdown, I've been speaking less than ever. Instead I listen to the house. Houses do such funny things to sound. In this house we can hear each other from any room, but never clearly. Words are muted by walls into soft lilting murmurs. We sound lovelier, kinder, and I suspect that something about the timber of our vocal chords clings to the beams in the walls and carries in mumbled vibration, contributing to the (sometimes) reassuring illusion of constant human presence.

     If I could package the sounds of my day as an album, I would call it The Sounds of Living in a Box, or maybe The Sounds of an Inside World Heard From the Outside. Even in a limited space there is unlimited sound. Recently I heard people talking in the shower—from the living room couch I could hear it through the walls, the spray of water, the casual conversation, voices like static through a telephone, or whales calling each other from underwater. The whine of hot water, the droning, the words unrecognizable through walls but characterized still by the slow pacing of nothing important.