NPR has been doing a series on sounds we miss from the past. These are sounds that don't exist anymore, but that some of us still remember. Yesterday they did a story of the sound of the needle dropping on a phonograph record. One of the contributors focused on the sound as a moment of anticipation to the delights to come. His recollections were like a hymn to the world that record albums opened up to us back in the day.
It is amazing to me to hear that sound today, because before the advent
of compact discs and digital downloads, we didn't realize how loud it
actually was. The hiss, crackles and pops jump out at us now. Then they were a normal part of the listening experience. We tuned them out, I
This piece brought to mind other sounds which are no more. The over
excited static of a transistor radio. The reassuring, repetitive voices
at the end of the line when you called the time or the weather. Real
school bells that really and truly rang. The sound as you twisted the
wind-up key for a special toy. The sound of old metal roller skates on
the sidewalk. The grumbling and clanking of an old furnace on a Winter's
morning, steam radiators.
Like the sound of the needle on a vinyl record, one sound I never
thought about much was the sound of children playing. It was, more often
than not, the steady accompaniment to most of my childhood. But not
today. Although there are children in my neighborhood, I rarely see
them outdoors. And the sound of children playing is so rare that we usually stop what we are doing and look outside to see if everything is
Today our lives are filled with the results of product
innovation and technological improvements. Life goes on without the hisses, crackles, ticks, thumps and bangs of
years gone by. But what of the children
playing? The absence of that sound is as dangerous to the health of the human
condition as the loss of bees or the contamination of groundwater.
I can't bring back Chatty Cathy, Vroom Motors, playing 45's on my record
player. I don't want or need to relive my own childhood. But I think I
want to do what I can to make the world more welcoming for children to play in
their own neighborhoods.
I can start right here where I live.
Suggestions? Sound off in the comments section. I'm contemplating a new challenge.