Is it birds chirping? A babbling brook? Wind through the trees? Children giggling? I was listening to a Spark podcast the other day and there was a segment about a recent contest for the most beautiful sound in the world. Now this contest specifically excludes music and deals only with other kinds of sounds. Submissions are judged by two people, albeit sound experts, but I nevertheless am a little skeptical that such a subjective thing like beauty can really be determined by two people!
The winner this year is “Dusk by the Frog Pond.” It is full of melodic frog calls layered on top of a full and persistent insect hum and buzz. Even though it is a natural sound, it kind of reminds me of outer-space—like this is how aliens might sound having a conversation with each other on their UFO.
Generally, when I think of sounds I tend to think of nature sounds, but actually there are a lot of ambient, man-made or mechanical sounds that we hear all the time throughout the day but tend to ignore or find annoying. Some of the entries in the contest were recordings of these ambient, man-made sounds, including one of the finalists—sound generated by traffic on a bridge in Victoria, British Columbia. I was totally shocked and impressed with this!! It is quite intriguing how rhythmically symmetrical it is and how well balanced the lower drone sounds are with higher-pitched metallic pings and bird calls.
The beauty in the mechanical, urban sound of the Johnson Street Bridge made me consider the ambient, man-made sounds around me. I wondered if I was surrounded by such equally beautiful sounds. . .
Katelyn’s Inventory of Sounds: My Apartment—
- My refrigerator is constantly humming a very low pitched tone, and every hour or so my fridge makes a very percussive, clicking sound for a reason beyond me.
- Then we’ve got my heater/air conditioner—the fan is so loud that whenever it comes on I have to turn the volume on my television up at least three notches in order to be able to hear it.
- My apartment also shares a wall with a mechanical room which produces a sort of deep-pitched purring/humming sound every couple of hours.
- Along that same wall shared with a mechanical room, my apartment backs up against a wall of mailboxes, so I hear the metallic doors swinging open and slamming shut whenever someone checks for their mail.
- My apartment is near an elevator, so I hear it faintly whirring as it takes people to different floors.
- I hear the echoes of people talking/shouting/laughing as they wait for the elevator.
- Lastly, I have the city sounds of sirens, people shouting, horns honking, helicopters flying lowly overhead, and trains whistling their way through.
Whew. Listing all those sounds makes me realize just how noisy my living environment is, yet it is interesting that over time I have been able to generally block those sounds out. When I think about them now, I just don’t think they contain the beauty of the Johnson Street Bridge. The ambient sounds around me don’t have the same kind of comforting balance, regularity, and interest of the bridge. But maybe I’m just being too critical?!
All this got me thinking . . . what sound sample would I have submitted to the world’s most beautiful sound contest?
Hmm. . . such an interesting question. I think I would choose the sound of a fire crackling with some owls hooting periodically in the background. Guess I’m a sucker for those nature sounds!
So, what do you think is the world’s most beautiful sound? And what are your reactions to this year’s winners?