Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The sounds of modern times -- transport

To write a blog on "early history" I have to think a lot about "modern times," as one defines the other.

I've spent time in three different places over the last month, and I noticed as I fell asleep that the night soundscape was dominated by the sound of modern transportation.

It's pretty quiet at my country home on the edge of Northern Ontario, and there are animal sounds like dogs barking and occasionally wolves howling. The most regular sounds are those of the CP/CN railway that ties the country together and which created its modern economy. Of course cars go by, too, but their occasional noise is not as impressive or as characteristic as the train horns.

I spent a couple of weeks in a medium-sized southern Ontario city and falling asleep there I heard lots of cars, but, much more exciting, the sound of ocean-going freighters passing. The engines of those ships are very quiet from a distance but the horns are musical and loud.

I spent two more weeks at a campground in a rural part of the United States, with about 10,000 others (details later). During the days, human sounds -- music, talking -- dominated but as people slowly went to sleep the huge river-like noise of a nearby interstate and its constant truck traffic emerged to fill the night. You wondered why you had heard it more loudly earlier. Loud as it was, it was just part of the background of modern life, unremarkable until everything else was subtracted.

Image: The ship American Fortitude, which I saw earlier this year.

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