Monday, June 13, 2011

Joe Neal: Curmudgeons of sound unite

My house is about a half-block from College Avenue, busy drag through Fayetteville's heart. Cardinals and Carolina Wrens sing at first light. When I tune in, add thrasher, catbird, and phoebe. But at  various times my backyard soundscape is performed by Harley-Davidsons, 70,000 trying all-at-once for Razorback stadium, medivacs swooping into Washington Regional.
When I bought this place 17 years ago, it was summer, quiet traffic gap in a college town. The little house seemed a tropical island, miraculously isolated from city, a place in the country, Thoreau's cabin, well off pavement. Papers all signed, we move in, and on one otherwise quiet June morning I notice a noisy constant pump from a neighbor's pool. Summer Wednesdays I learn are Bike Nights when Harleys race up and race down the hills of College, roaring river at flood tide, audible in my paradise so recently acquired. And have I forgotten rider mowers, weed whackers, and the guy who with latest in power tools restores old Chevys?
So welcome to the soundtrack of urban America, Fayetteville style. 
Welcome to my litany of audible woe. I've tried to figure out what to do. I thought maybe the city government would care, but some are themselves Wednesday's Harley Knights. Maybe the neighbor would consider an electric mower? But can you ride one? And pool pump? I enjoy the happy splashy screams of kids and their friends. It sounds like innocent fun, and I am a sour curmudgeon.
 Sound curmudgeon I am; but, by the same token, this weird stuff doesn't just appear out of thin air, like an immaculate conception. Either the worst curmudgeon in me prevails, or I convert. The inside of my brain, that is, and at least some of my house. Down go windows, up goes AC, and there's a CD player beside my bed that like Superman is more powerful than a speeding locomotive, or perhaps I should say, rotor wash from a low passing chopper.
 On the CD is "Rain Forest," from The Atmosphere Collection entitled "A month in the Brazilian Rainforest." Here's first aid for aggrieved audio sensitive brain cells. An island of sorts, rescue for a sound curmudgeon. Who would have thought my old house, so near a busy noisy center, could acquire modest aspects of Walden Pond where I might "Relax with Loon Lake" courtesy of Eclipse Music Group?

So on quiet days as in old and more naive times, I try my windows up and enjoy cardinals. But as antidote to my creeping and sometimes galloping sound curmudgeoncy, I have the "Nature sound adventure series" by Lang Elliot, numbers 1-4. He celebrates the birds of North America in all their audio glory: No. 1, "Prairie Spring," No. 2, "Voices of the Swamp," No. 3, "Seabird Islands," and 4, "Wings Over the Prairie."
 For y'all out there with audio distress, yield not to your inner sound curmudgeon. Help is on the way! I have no license to practice, but palliation if not cure may be as simple and inexpensive as a do-it-yourself brain rewiring job.

JOSEPH C. NEAL in Fayetteville, Arkansas


  1. I hear ya bro. I got troubles over here. On one side of me I have a barking dog. I mean a CONSTANT barking dog because the owners never take the poor thing inside or play with it outside. It's lonely. Before that there was a couple with six children. The parents were constantly screaming at the kids, doors slamming, and several old crappy cars coming and going in the driveway all night long. It seems the people who rented the house worked odd hours. Across the street from me the Eco apartments are being built. Whoopie. The Mexican workers are yelling obscenties all day long. Well, there's more. The train goes by blowing its whistle several times per day. I wish all noise would end so I could live here peacefully. I don't make noise so why does everyone else in the world? The train I understand. But dogs barking, parents yelling at kids, and workers yelling obscenties, right. I'm with ya. Why doesn't someone put a stop to all of this so I can hear the birds chirping?

  2. Joe, You sell your bird books because you need/ want money. Some of the rest of us have stuff we wish to sell. And some of the bikers are buying. I'd be rather put out with the city officials if my income went down so you could hear the tweety birds.