In Folio Weekly’s “News of the Weird” I read with interest that officials at England’s 12th-century St. Peter’s Church in Seaford, East Sussex, made a 30-minute CD of the eerie quiet of the Church’s sanctuary for which it is known. As reported in the article, the recording of near-total silence was originally done as a local fund raising project. But the Church has now received world-wide attention for its efforts with orders coming in from as far away as Ghana. Those who have heard the CD have said only occasional footsteps on a squeaky wooden floor or a passing car’s distant hum can be heard. Amazing what some will do to find a little peace and quiet.
I thought I was the only one.
There is nothing wrong with filling the air with sound, of course. I think it was my long-time friend Bill Slaughter who once suggested something to the effect that a musician sees silence as an artist sees an empty canvas, or as he might have expanded, as a writer sees the whiteness of a blank Word doc, with that little cursor blinking and blinking. He was right, of course. And given my former career in the music business, I obviously enjoy hearing the air filled with wonderful sounds.
But not all sounds are wonderful. Among the worst abusers of otherwise perfectly motionless air molecules are the incredibly energetic vocal chords of small children and their ear-splitting screams when the day’s events may not be progressing in a manner deemed acceptable to them. Frankly, most any high-pitched caterwauling tends to put my stomach in knots and cause me to gnash my teeth. That would include, prior to his death back 2009, Mr. Bill Mays on television trying to sell me some Oxyclean by screeching at the top of his lungs (“Hi!!! Billy Mays here!!!!”). My condolences to Mr. Mays’ family, but, nevertheless, I thought I heard a collective sigh across America when it was clear that he would no longer be bellowing his way into our living rooms with those pitches.
Now, lo and behold, I find that right here in Jacksonville we have a Billy Mays copycat. This fellow sounds so much like Mr. Mays I had to double check the archives to make sure the latter, indeed, was no longer with us. But, instead of Oxyclean, this guy is selling Kias and furniture. How many others must be out there already, proliferating faster than Elvis impersonators in 1977? Lord help us.
I often look forward to the quiet of an evening with no TV or other devices rattling for my attention, or diverting my thoughts from something more desirable, such as a book or just plain-Jane contemplation from time to time. And, now that my last youngster has moved out of the house, I am far more likely to have opportunities to enjoy such evenings once the nightly news is over and the sun has set. I have always wondered how people who live in households subject to the perpetual cacophony of televisions banging away, stereos blaring, dogs barking and young siblings screaming at one another over who gets to use the bathroom first, ever have the opportunity to, you know, simply think.
Okay, okay, sure, there’s no sound more satisfying than that of a houseful of family and friends gathered for the holidays or a special event: screaming kids, barking pets and all. But, sometimes I simply long for a little peace and quiet. And I don’t need to buy a CD to remember what it sounds like.
Ahhh, just me and my tinnitus.
(More on this? Check out “Solitary pursuits” in “Reverie.”)