Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Perfect Soundscape

Reader, come with me in your imagination and enter the Belair National Park early on a summer's day with a loved dog padding along by your side. The wind caresses the gum trees like the hiss of the sea, there is the grating call of the Wattle bird, the carolling of Magpies, the screech of Black Cockatoos, distant birdsong and maybe even the grunt of a Koala. For a human being this is the perfect soundscape and also restful for the whole person, being in nature, the subtle palate of colours and too early to require sun glasses. Vigilance it is true, is required for sleeping brown-snakes but all in all such a pleasure and a privilege to live nearby such a special place.

Why is it then when the soundscape is perfect - since in our ancestral memory birds singing suggest no predator is nearby, and the wind is not so strong that it upsets our equilibrium, - that other human beings walk with eyes to the ground or jogging with headphones or ear buds firmly attached. A friendly greeting receives no reciprocal smile and greeting because these people do not hear anything apart from their music.

Granted when sitting in an aircraft, or driving a car or in a noisy place like the gym I stuff in ear plugs to protect my hearing and to lessen tiredness from the low drone of engines, but in a natural place why do others shut out the natural world? This makes no sense although I imagine people listen to music they love but distraction by nature if one slows scans through sounds, feelings and visual clues, not to mention smells can be a life giving meditation that moves the being away from the internal noise. In fact the perfect soundscape is like a full sensual experience cleansing what William Blake called 'the doors of perception' from the pollution of noise and other over stimulation that is so dehumanising.


  1. "You brim the curvature of silence."

    (Chilean poet of love and the earth:
    Pablo Neruda, 1904-1973)

  2. I'm sure you know this quote from Anthony de Mello:

    If I am not careful to choose a quiet place for my contemplation groups some of the members of the group invariably complain about the sounds around them. The traffic in the street. The blare of a radio. A door banging. A telephone bell ringing. All of these sounds seem to intrude upon their quiet and peacefulness and to distract them.

    Some sounds are considered to foster silence and prayer. Listen to the sound of a church bell toward dusk, for instance, or the sound of birds in the early morning, or the sound of an organ playing softly in a vast church. No complaint there! Yet there is no sound, except a sound that is so loud as to cause damage to your eardrums, that need disturb your silence and peacefulness. If you learn to take all the sounds that surround you into your contemplation (supposing that they do intrude on your awareness while you are in contemplation), you will discover that there is a deep silence in the heart of all sounds. That is why I like to hold my prayer group sessions in places that are not entirely silent. A room above a busy street suits my purpose admirably.

    I've used it many times!