“The Hum of the City” (Or, Kansas City’s Pulse)

Challenge: Noise Challenge #1: The Pulse |

By: Liana

When I received the first noise challenge in my inbox, I knew exactly what sound I wanted to share: the sound of Kansas City’s expressways–or rather, the sound of cars driving along the interstates that criss-cross this city on both sides of the river. The first time I did a soundwalk in my neighborhood (Rosedale, in Kansas City, Kansas) I was perplexed by a faraway hum that followed me:

But once the wind died down and the leaves stopped rustling and the sound of my shoes faded into the background, I could hear a hum, barely audible but still existent. I wonder if it’s the hum of the expressway (1-35), or the hum of the air filters at the hospital (KU Med). I could hear it when I was at my farthest from my house but also when I was closest. I think of it as the hum of the city. If when we are super quiet we can hear our bodies breathe, the hum can be the city breathing, all of its sounds coming together as one. I’d like to think so. (“Listening to Kansas City”, Sounding Out!

In December of last year, I did another soundwalk and documented it for Sounding Out!, and in that post I recorded again the hum of the city, but from another location. (You can hear that post’s audio here.)

I think of this distant hum–distant, perhaps even imperceptible to the untrained ear–as the lifeline of the city. The same way that pulse indicates the blood flowing through the body, the distant sound of the highways, heard across the city, is the indication of the blood flow of the city: be it the people, be it the cars, be it what those sounds represent. Now that I am getting ready to leave Kansas City for another city, I crave its sounds even more.

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