Noise Intercepted Collaborators
Caren Gussoff - Writer
Why do I want to participate?
I am a science fiction writer from Seattle, WA. I'm participating in this project because I'd like to become more conscious of sound around me, and to use it more in my work.
I went looking for my own square inch. I went to my closet, I went to the basement, I went to the suburbs, I went off the path. No matter where I went, my heart or the birds, far-off traffic or the buzz of electrical wiring followed me there.
But I found a second here, in this place. Just a second, through the wall of blackberry bushes and beneath the canopy of trees, before I coughed, a goose hissed, and a plane flew overhead.
When I was in elementary school, we watched a series of educational filmstrips on the various and sundry spheres of employment and commerce that would be available to us upon adulthood. One film was on mining. Another, engineering. A third followed non-specific scientists in a lab. The closing line of each film, which became a running joke until one by one each of us outgrew this earliest social circle, or straight up moved away, was “This is industry.” Empathize is. “This is industry.”
Like Mr. Barrett, our earnest music teacher we called Mr. Carrot, “This is industry” tickled us in a surprisingly sophisticated way. We’d be bent over worksheets, biting our lips through long division problems, when someone would squeak out, “This is industry.” We’d all slide off our chairs with laughter.
Even our teachers thought it was funny, and we rarely shared jokes with adults.
I haven’t thought about these filmstrips for years. No one I talk to on a regular basis saw these films, and, if they did, more than likely do not share my sentimental mirth. But I’ve thought of the line, even uttered it as I paid attention to the little sounds, the ones that surround me but which I tune out, which have transformed, in my experience of them, from noise into nothingness.
All around me, all day, all week: typing. Muffled, muted, even gagged by manufacturing technologies that lower the key profiles and respond to even the slightest of circuit contacts. It is the quietest of drumming, stop and start, picking up speed as my cubicle-mate responds to email, my cubicle-neighbor answers instant messages, and the cubicle-across-the-aisle resident builds agendas for meetings.
My fingers hammer at my own keyboard, but there’s no satisfaction to it. I delete and retype the same word, but always, I am silenced down to slight taps, barely significant, barely audible, and thus, in their way, insignificant. My words make no sound here, and neither do anyone else’s. They could be rats, scratching in the walls, or distant woodpeckers, or someone, somewhere trying to get out or in.
This is industry. This is industry.
Three sounds — single ply, twisted like rope — knit a loose sheet:
Traffic’s baritone exhale
Crows and geese and gulls and finches, even an occasional eagle, in a flow like a theka
And water, all the water, the rain feeding the lakes, the lakes feeding the bay, and the bay feeding the Sound.
Over the sheet, the blanket. Zinc white clouds and filtered grey light, lacy green fringes of needles and cones
Temper the sharpest notes, dull and soft and smooth. It’s quiet enough to think.
When the sun throws back this spread, we smile at the sun. Dumbly like we’ve missed a meal, and staggered at finding the volume altogether too loud.