I Hear Things

I hear things. You’ve got that right: I hear things. I often hear things other people cannot hear. My eyesight is extremely limited (in fact, I am legally blind without corrective lenses) and, as such, I have always relied on my keen sense of sound. In addition, because I have been a musician for almost 60 years, I notice rhythmic patterns and musical notes associated with everyday sounds. For example, train horns are comprised of several musical notes, with the original tuning of C#, E, G, A, C#. And, although it may seem obvious that train horns are musical, how about the sound of a train coming down a track? Many people can’t appreciate that this sound, which some people would describe as a noise, also has musical notes associated with it. I attended a seminar several years ago by a famous bass player named Victor Wooten that was part of the Association for Psychological Science conference. Mr. Wooten described his ability, as someone with perfect pitch, to know exactly what note is being played by everyday objects. For example, the ticking sound my clock is making as I type this post would be easily identified by Victor Wooten by its musical note. I’m not that good, however, I am far better than most people at hearing, and listening to, sounds and their meaning. In my not so favorite topic of late, the nightmare that was David’s and my re-roof project, the roofers’ negligence caused the ceiling in our master bath to leak, then collapse. It was repaired, however, when it rained (as it does on a daily basis this time of year), I distinctly heard a different sound pattern that I had heard previously, leading me to know, with 95% certainty, that the repair had not been performed properly and thus, the roof was continuing to leak. I complained to the roofing company, nothing was done, and, you guessed it, I was right. The ceiling became saturated and the steady drip began again, for the second time in two weeks. The awful drip is a C#, by the way. Just because other people cannot hear, listen, and pay attention to what sounds are communicating does not mean I can’t hear, listen, or pay attention. Can you hear me now?

Most of us enjoy having 5 senses, and I won’t venture into a 6th sense; I can attest to Melissa’s keen sense of hearing.  It goes well beyond her listening ability, for which our clients pay dearly.  Melissa can hear so well that the mocking birds in our yard that start singing wake her with their pre-dawn serenades (at least they are not roosters!).  At some point, such acute hearing is over the top.  With earplugs or other hearing protection, though, she makes good use of her sense of hearing.  Our work involves observing and, more importantly, listening to people speak their minds.  The opinions of people off the street are what our clients need to hear, even if some do not want to hear some things.  Melissa’s ability to filter the content is critical because many times when the jurors are talking, so are the attorneys and clients who are watching in the observation room.  Listening in that environment can be quite a juggle.  In worlds beyond our day jobs, I find sounds are a part of the experience.  As Melissa points out, to musicians, sounds are everything.  But, in my visual world of photography, the sound of the shutter is part of my experience.  Each of my different cameras sound different.  The frequency, both as to speed and sound, of the shutter helps me know if I have captured the decisive moment.  With digital photography, confirmation of the image capture is nearly instantaneous, but it is the firing of the shutter that helps me know whether I am on track to catch what I see in the viewfinder.  The sounds don’t ensure I caught the fleeting images of birds in flight, for example, but it helps.  Long ago I was lectured by a (know it all) church minister that I could not make any sound during the wedding over which he was officiating.  His meddling wife took it upon herself to go further and chide me.  Having much experience in such matters, I knew how to mute the camera (in the days of mechanical shutters and film).  A point proven after the service when I asked if they heard the camera which I was using from my balcony vantage point.  Of course, they could not.  I’ll always remember that negative experience about sound.  Being tuned into what one can, and cannot, hear, is important in many ways.


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