Thursday, March 21, 2013

The sound of Walden

In an excellent piece about using your ears as well as your eyes when you're on holiday, David Hendy in The Independent talks about making a trip to the Walden location in Massachusetts of Godfather of shedworking, Henry David Thoreau. Here's a snippet"

I went to this famous literary haunt fully expecting to find a natural soundscape now ravaged by the din of modernity. It turned out to be the best moment in our entire recording schedule. On a misty January Sunday morning, and within a 30-minute drive from Boston, Thoreau's Walden came to life before my ears. Ice creaking as it formed by the shoreline, the low hum of pine needles swaying in the breeze, and, just as Thoreau had promised, the faint rattle of a train tearing through distant woods – an intimation in sound of the Machine Age.

The sounds were pretty subtle. Perhaps I wouldn't have noticed them at all if I hadn't been at Walden Pond especially to listen. But they connected me with Thoreau and his age at a deep emotional level. Catching them, I also understood for the first time that every place on Earth really does still have its unique "sound mark". It's a fragile thing, though. And in a globalised world, we should cherish it while we can.
Hendy's series Noise: A Human History is at 1.45pm on BBC Radio 4 weekdays until April 26 and his book Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening is published by Profile Books (£16.99).
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