Amusing Monday: The sounds of imagination

I’ve always been interested in how things sound, sometimes more than how they look.

When I was a child, someone gave me a little tape recorder for some occasion, such as my birthday or Christmas. I went around recording everything from flushing toilets to my dad snoring to cats drinking milk from a bowl.

One of the first record albums I ever bought was one that contained dozens of sound effects. My younger brother and I used that album and also made up our own sounds while putting together radio plays, which we recorded on a massive reel-to-reel tape recorder.

I’ve always taken great pleasure from music, the sounds of nature and other pleasant noises, such as wind chimes. But it has been years since I’ve done anything with sound just for fun. Recently, I began playing around, just for amusement, on a website called Nature Sounds for Me.

About the sound players on this page, you can start them by clicking on the big arrow. To stop them and start them again, click on the little speaker at the bottom.

Anyone can register to have his or her mix compositions saved for future listening and sharing with others. The mixes are easy to create. You simply select up to four sounds, adjust the volumes of each and decide whether they should be steady sounds or fade in and out. You can also balance for stereo effect, left to right.

Using the site, I have listened to many compositions by others. I have found many simple but beautiful sounds, such as “woodlandsounds,” which mixes the sounds of forest birds with a stream and wind blowing through leaves. I’ve also found a number of mixes where too many layers of natural sound created an acoustical mess.

I’ve stumbled on some disturbing sounds, such as “Woooow,” where someone placed a whale in a forest with the song “Silent Night” playing in the background. There are also some really weird compositions, such as “Whyyyy,” which combines the breathing of Darth Vader with the odd sounds of a lemur while Christmas music plays in the background.

But, to be honest, it has been much more fun to create my own sounds, either trying to recreate a sound from my memory, such as with “Maui Morn” and “Row Row” or creating an imaginary scene, such as in “Silent Cat” and “Lonely Wolf.”

On this holiday Monday, I find myself playing around with the effects of combining many different sounds when I probably should be doing something more constructive. But it helps me remember many things, including a childhood when I had nothing better to do. I encourage you to give it a try.

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