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greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement

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Is the sound of the suburbs boring?

Do you listen to the sounds of the environment around you? I do. For example, where I am it is about five in the morning. It is quiet. I hear a very light hum, perhaps the refrigerator in the next room. My ear is hissing a bit with tinnitus. At times my fingers tap on the keyboard keys.

When I walk, I also listen to the environment. I find I enjoy the sounds of the city, which is dense traffic echoing off tall buildings. It's interesting to listen to all those car engines. The country is also nice, peace and quiet mixed with the sounds of agricultural work.

But the sound of the suburbs I find a little boring. It is a medium amount of traffic, echoing off one and two story buildings. The car engine sound is a bit thin, but you also don't have the peace and quiet. It somewhat lacks strong character and interest. Is there some way I could find some enjoyment in this sound?

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  • Dec 5 2013: Greg,

    In 1974 I lived in Rancho Bernardo which is north of San Diego. Below my house was an elementary school with a large playground with baseball and football fields. 2 blocks from my house was the desert. I enjoyed living there and the sounds were of children playing or go 2 blocks and hear the sounds of the desert. I went back in 1993 and the playgrounds were gone, filled with buildings and the desert was pushed back several miles with condo's everywhere. Think it depends on the planners whether the suburbs are livable or not.
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      Dec 5 2013: well, my thought would be that if you lived near a school you would hear the sound of children, but also other sounds. For example, if you lived near a school in the city, you would hear children, plus dense traffic, plus perhaps trucks loading and unloading, and so on. If you lived near a school in the country, you would hear children, plus a little traffic, perhaps more birds. As a totality of sound those would interest me.

      If you lived near a school in the suburbs, you would hear children, plus medium traffic, plus maybe a few planes overhead. I'm sorry, wayne, I'm not really adding anything to the convo, but it's that in-the-middle sound of the suburb school + total environment that just doesn't seem as interesting as the environments father on the edges, school in the city + total environment, and school in the country + total environment. The sound just doesn't have as much color, well, the city and the country seem a little more exotic, each extreme in their own way. Do you tend to be an all-or-nothing guy, I think I may be.
      • Dec 6 2013: Not sure what you mean by all or nothing - I have been known to push the limits and try a lot of new things.
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          Dec 6 2013: well, wayne, I'm sorry I keep turning the spotlight on myself. If you think of soundscapes being on a continuum, where the sound of the urban environment is on one end of the continuum, the rural environment on the other end, and the suburbs in the middle, I seem to be drawn to the ends. Maybe you could help me solve this question: if I listen to traffic in the city, where there are a lot of cars, that sound is interesting to me. But if I listen to traffic in the suburb, where it is a medium amount of traffic, the sound is not interesting. Can you think why a person (in this case, me) would react that way?
      • Dec 7 2013: Greg,

        Let me try by using an analogy. An old high school with the rock (marble?) floors is very noise during the day, full of sounds of the classes, people moving, voices, etc. At night when you are the only person in the high school, all you hear is your steps and the echo of your steps. (very eerie) But late in the afternoon or early in the morning, the noise level is not high and you are expecting the sounds or the eerie and it seems wrong.
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          Dec 7 2013: thank you wayne. So perhaps I enjoy the denser city traffic because it is more active than the less dense suburb traffic? But then, can one learn to enjoy, or find interest in, the less active activity, and how does one do this?
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    Dec 4 2013: I'd like to suggest you sing in the peaceful and beautiful countryside if you feel like to. I think that could be some harmony between human and nature.
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      Dec 4 2013: well, I live in a suburb now, Yoka. I do sometimes sing when I walk, but I still find the sounds around me a little boring, the medium amount of cars going by, maybe once in a while a little plane up in the sky. The sound is somewhat uninteresting, it does not make a strong statement, like the sound of the city or the country. Have you spent any time in a suburb, did you pay any attention to the general sound of the environment? You live in a city, don't you? Do you listen to the environment there, how do you like the sound?
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        Dec 6 2013: Hi, greg, I think if people can be peaceful with themselves, it'll enable them to find the harmony in their sorroundings including all kinds of sound. I try to do that. I live near a primary school and a supermarket. There are trees and birds too. I always hear the chirps of the birds in the morning. Sometimes some people's voices or routine music coming from the school. Sometimes some cats' meowing. When I go outside, there're sounds of transportations on the road,at the station and on the subway. I like listening to my environment and be a part of it becauese I like music in the nature and surroundings.
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          Dec 6 2013: Well, I am pretty peaceful with myself. But I don't know that I'm looking for harmony so much as interest.

          Here's my question, Yoka. When I listen to a lot of cars on the road, like in the city, the sound is very interesting to me. But when I listen to only a medium amount of cars on the road, like in the suburbs, the sound isn't very interesting. Can you think why that would be?
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        Dec 7 2013: I don't know. I think maybe the different places make you feel differet. The cars' sound in the boonies don't seem matching the quiet and natural atmosphere while it's usual and modern for the cities.
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          Dec 7 2013: I'll have to think about that more, Yoka. Wayne was saying that a person might enjoy the very active sound of dense city traffic because it is active, it gives the feeling of energy and activity. Whereas the suburb traffic is not as strong and therefore not as interesting. Thus my question becomes whether one could find some interest in the less interesting suburban traffic, and how one might do this?