Scene One: at the movie theater the other day. First, the quiet! Have you ever notice that people are extremely quiet while waiting for a film to begin? Maybe it’s the subdued lighting, or the settling in, or the anticipation. Then the noise! Blaring reminders to purchase the popcorn that you resisted earlier when you noted that it cost half the price of a ticket, deafening advertisements for cell phones and cars, and loudest of all, energetic previews seemingly selected for their most violent and noisy segments.
Scene Two: back at the cottage. The quiet was surreal. Inside all I heard was the furnace, accompanied by an occasional ticking from the radiator. Outside on the porch I was treated to the gentle lap of a wave on the rocks, and the occasional cry of a gull.
Where is this going, you ask? So far I’ve reported sounds that surrounded me during two recent times and places, sounds that were just there, by default, without my conscious choice, sounds that I didn’t ask for or create. I had forgotten about the loud previews, and I was looking forward to the Les Mis music. After all, that’s what I went to hear. I wasn’t expecting the Hollywood sound effects, predominantly and exclusively, in the form of gunshots.
Um, as I write, a terrifying thought occurs to me. Could it be true that on the ‘sound continuum’ gunfire is at the noise end, the very end? In the movie version of Les Mis, do the gunshots trump the music? Will the people who heard gunshots in Newtown ever feel or hear silence? Will they ever reach the silence end of the continuum, and if so, what will the find? God? It’s a mystery but I can’t imagine that absolute quiet is as terrifying as even one gunshot.
Maybe we can settle for a gull or gentle wave as the best of silence. For sure, we don’t choose the noise of guns (my apologies to hunters). Gun shots invade our personal space in a way that a gull does not. When I walk on the beach looking for silence, I’m not offending anyone, and neither are the gulls or waves.