My Acoustic Window

When I take a look outside my window, all that I can see is a housing project building across the street with a run-down basketball court next to it.  If I really press my face up against the glass and look to the left, I can catch a glimpse of some of the roads and buildings of 1st Avenue, but, overall, what little I can see is not very interesting. However, while there is not a lot to see outside my window, there certainly is a lot to hear.  

My window is an ear. It allows me to hear nearly everything that happens on my street and in my neighborhood.  Some of the most common but most integral sounds that pass through my window are the different types of music that people play.  Most of the time, the music comes from a particular group, mostly comprised of middle-aged and elderly people, who hang out outside the building across the street and play their music through a large speaker.  I’ve never spoken to any of them. They’re just there. Their music varies greatly, from modern trap music to rap from the 90s and 80s to different types of Latin music.  My window heavily muffles the lyrics, but the general melody and sound of the songs are very audible. When I am not listening to music myself, I like to try and immerse myself in these songs, especially when I recognize them, in which case I try to line up the lyrics in my head and recite them to myself as the song plays.  This music often remains until very late at night. I often hear it as I fall asleep.  It does not hurt my ability to sleep all that much because I prefer to sleep with background noise than in cold, dead silence. Because of the harsh winter weather, this group has not been outside nearly as much as they are during the spring and summer months, thus the amount of music outside has drastically decreased. However, occasionally, I can hear people in their cars blasting music as they drive by.

An interesting phenomenon occurred throughout New York City during the spring and summer of 2020: a mysterious surge in illegal firework displays.  Before this phenomenon, I would sometimes hear loud, thunderous noises, and I would not be able to tell whether they were fireworks or gunshots.  However, on one spring evening, a distinct set of booms rang through the air, and I could tell fully that they were fireworks. It wasn’t a big deal; people buy illegal fireworks all the time.  Then, the next evening came along, and another group of fireworks was set off, and the next evening, and the next evening.  Nearly every day for a few months, I would hear fireworks through my window.  I had no idea where they were coming from, who was setting them off, or why they were being set off, but the noise was always there. I neither enjoyed it nor disliked it, either.  At a certain point, they just became part of my daily life. I’m sure these fireworks were a side-effect of being quarantined, but it was so random and mysterious that I decided to just accept it.  Trying to understand it would not have been worth it.  Even if it was, sometimes I just like to process things without attempting to grasp or make sense of them.

There are many other miscellaneous noises that fill up my ears through the window.  Many of the noises come from people’s mouths.  These words seem to come from people of all ages, from children to grown adults.  Sometimes they sound argumentative, other times they sound excited and joyful, but it is sometimes hard to differentiate the two, as I can’t really make out the words. There are also dogs barking, birds chirping in the morning, motorcycles revving, along with a whole array of other noises that I am likely forgetting about.  In the end, it’s less about what is outside my window and more about what goes through my window and into my ears.

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