It was a beautiful, sunny day in July, and I was lying in a park in Geneva. My iPod was out of batteries, but I still had my headphones on. I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds surrounding me. Having the headphones on somehow gave me the sense that I was more actively listening than I normally would be—as if these environmental sounds were playing on my iPod. A world was slowly unfolding to me. I could hear people talking, cycling, walking, and roller-skating. A dog barking. A truck passing. Behind me, there was the rhythmic sputter of a sprinkler, and kids laughing and fooling around. I could hear a wine bottle being uncorked, and a box of crackers being opened. But most enjoyable were the sparrows, flying around nervously, trying to get hold of bread crumbs. They were flying from tree to tree, from my left ear to my right. A chirp here and there. Sometimes they would burst out in an excited chirping laughter, as if they were watching a ballgame and someone had just scored. It felt like listening to a great radio drama. I just had to do something with this. A project on environmental sound. A book, perhaps?
THE REST OF THIS article appeared as a booklet bound into the print edition of the March/April Orion. Add your favorite sounds in the discussion.