Comfort Sounds

Written by:

These are the sounds that greet me on Monday morning: “Grrrrr” trills the pack of raccoons that surround me as I go to get the morning paper off the driveway, eying me menacingly, snapping their fingers, but they did not attack. They seem to be rehearsing for a raccoon production of West Side Story. “Snap!”, says my shoelace, forcing me to pull the darn thing out and relace with the new shorter version, skipping a pair of eyelets. “Tweet!”, says my commuter mug full of hot coffee. Why it was tweeting, I can’t say. It’s never done that before. It was almost imperceptible, but it was definitely making a noise, like it was trying to become a teakettle.

These oddball sounds are all around us, but we don’t necessarily pay attention to them – too many more important things demand our focus. But we notice them on a peripheral level, and when they’re familiar they’re actually comforting – we WOULD notice if they were gone. Even puppies understand comfort sounds. Back in the day when people had clocks that actually ticked, it was recommended that you place a ticking clock near where your new puppy sleeps to ease its anxiety at being in a new home (I guess it mimicked the mother’s heartbeat).

We all have our own comfort sounds, I guess.

Our coffee maker makes a sighing sound as it brews – it sounds like a really disappointed young man. “Ohhh. Ohhh”, it laments, complaining every morning as it makes the coffee. I know if I only had to work 10 minutes I day, I wouldn’tcomplain. To be honest, the moaning is music to my ears – if I get up and go into the kitchen and hear the coffeemaker sighing, I know coffee’s on the way.

I think morning comfort sounds help set the mood for a new day. When I was a young child, I could hear my father cutting up his fried eggs every morning from my bed. Actually for years, I didn’t even know what the sound was, but it was absolutely normal to hear it before I got up. My dad would take a knife and fork, and in a very specific way, with a very specific rhythm, quickly slice that fried egg up to allow precise forkfulls of egg to be dipped in the runny yolk and combined, just so, with a bite of toast. Years later, even my cousins commented on the particular my dad cut up his eggs. It was Duane Campbell’s claim to fame.

Another little sound that elicits a Pavlovian reaction from me is the sound of the latches on instrument cases. Think about it – I know you’ve heard it. You go over to someone’s house to jam, and there’s the ritual greetings, and maybe some small talk, and then, when the jam session is about to begin, there’s the staccato burst of noise of guitar, banjo and fiddle cases being unlatched. Everyone has a practiced rhythm when they open the latches on their cases; the sounds come in rapid burst of 3 or 4 nice audible snaps. If everyone’s doing it at once, it’s like someone’s popping metallic popcorn. And if somebody’s unzipping a bass bag at the same time, it’s a veritable symphony.

I guess music sometimes comes in odd little snippets, if you listen for it.


Read about: