The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

3 December 2003

Noises in the night

Forensic scientists — which, if you were to judge solely by network television, make up approximately two-thirds of all scientists in this country — have yet to issue a definitive statement on the subject, but I rather think that every building has its own distinct sound pattern, a combination of not-necessarily-random noises that, when combined correctly, identify a building as surely as its street address or its legal description. (No doubt composer John Cage was aware of this phenomenon when he came up with 4' 33", a piece where ambient sounds comprise the music.)

I'm just now learning the sounds of the new house. Of course, "new" is a relative term: the house is actually fifty-five years old. You might expect a bit of creak here and there, and indeed the wooden floors do have a recognizable jounce/rebound pattern, each room slightly different but none of them at all silent. And while the gas furnace is not particularly noisy, there is a pattern that repeats whenever the thermostat commands: a low-pitched grunt, as though the giant had been awakened from his slumber ("Fee, fi, fo, farm/Suppose this twerp would like some warm"), then a rumble as the gas valve opens, finally a snap of metallic fingers and the rush of warm air.

I have yet to distinguish, other than by location, the difference between the fridge kicking into cycle and the water heater going into full sub-boil.

Posted at 7:37 AM to Surlywood


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Sounds like that 55 year old house shares a lot of noises common with a 50 year old man (I'm 50). You two ought to be very comfortable together.

Posted by: Mike at 9:39 AM on 3 December 2003

Well, I do have a bit of creak here and there.

Posted by: CGHill at 10:04 AM on 3 December 2003

Hey don't you know by now the water heater rumbles and the refrigerator hums/rumbles. Every 50 year old should know this by now. (I'm 50 also.) What is hard for me to tell is which knee is creaking and which one is rice krispies.

Posted by: anstranger at 7:36 PM on 3 December 2003

Well, certainly, but once you've heard them often enough, you tune them out: they become part of the background signal and are no longer recognizable as individual shards of sound. I haven't been here a week yet, so "often enough" isn't within the realm of possibility any time soon.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:12 PM on 3 December 2003

You do have a point there. Part of my job has been to be aware of different equipment sounds so that you could tell when something was going wrong, so I have just developed a habit of tuning out normal sounds quickly. It is just something that takes time. I imagine in a couple of weeks you won't notice them anymore. Just takes time. Hope you are enjoying the new/old house otherwise.

Posted by: anstranger at 5:21 PM on 4 December 2003