Short of heading out of town it’s almost impossible to escape Toronto’s sounds, but it can be easy to stop paying attention to them. Even so, “background noise” is a crucial part of any environment. There’s an entire discipline, acoustic ecology, devoted to the study of the noises — or lack thereof — that characterize and distinguish different environments.
Thinking about the sounds of a specific place, or its “soundscape,” means being actively aware of all of the sounds occurring. This is where paying attention comes in. In the city there are things to see, people to talk to, and it’s easy to find ourselves not paying any serious attention to the sounds around us.
But our fair city, like anywhere else, would be eerily foreign without its distinctive noises. It’s hard to imagine Toronto without the occasional ka-thunk of passing streetcars, and the languages (or, for that matter, the buskers) you hear on the sidewalk. These sounds may say as much about a neighborhood as its sights.
Of course, you can hear these sounds on a daily basis, but if you listen closely you may find something new. Pay close attention, and the louder noises give way to quieter tones that are less familiar but all the more interesting.
The recordings below were taken from various areas around the city this spring. Listen to them and try to hear what they have in common, what sets them apart, or just whatever strange sounds you notice. They’re recorded in stereo, so headphones are recommended.
Enjoy, and next time you’re out take the time to stop and listen to the roses. They’ll have something cool to say.