Soundtrack of a Place

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life.

Thumbing through Kate Messner’s book, 59 Reasons to Write, I discovered her lesson titled, Soundtrack of a Place (p. 108). This lesson encourages the writer to write a paragraph (or two) of sounds from your place. (This place might just be in your memory)

My place is the patio. Rarely do I get to spend time in my place in the winter, but occasionally there are days when the sun’s rays and the wind’s breath allows me to spend a bit of time enjoying the patio.

It was on such a rare day that I was able to sit and collect the sounds that surround me. Sounds that I don’t hear, not because they are not present, but because they are part of the sound landscape that blends into the normal so they are no longer unique, requiring attention.

At first, gentle, quiet sounds meet my ears. Leafed bushes rustle in the breeze.

A robin adds to the soundtrack

A robin adds to the soundtrack

Birds twitter. In the distance, a crow’s caw, caw floats across the field to my yard, more gentle than harsh by the time it reaches me.

Listening more intently brings the hollow echo of a hammer. Each blow of the hammer constructing a skeleton, eventually becoming a house, a home. Sometimes I hear tap, tap, tap. Sometimes I hear thup, thup, thup. Sometimes birds chirp in response to the sounds of the hammer.

Engines invade my sanctuary. Airplanes drone above, fading as it nears the airport. Leaving me to sigh a wish for a new travel adventure. A new engine has entered into the sound landscape. Dump trucks rumble past our subdivision. They turn off the main road (half a mile away), but are immediately met by a hill. They gargle as they downshift, engine protesting until they make it to the top.

Dump trucks grumble and roar down the road near me.

Dump trucks grumble and roar down the road near me.

Sounds travel faster than the trucks. They rrruuummmbbblle down the street a few yards away from my place.

Many of these sounds are temporary. Homes will be constructed, families will occupy the homes, creating a new soundtrack. Dump trucks will complete their current job and move on to new roads. Then I will be left with the gentle sounds of nature.

What’s the soundtrack of your place?

33 thoughts on “Soundtrack of a Place

  1. What an interesting idea -the soundtrack of your place. I think my students could easily do this, we’ve listened to sounds before and gathered thoughts, I just love the idea of explaining soundtrack to them.

  2. Melanie Roy says:

    Wow, you do an incredible job describing the sounds around you. Thank you for the Kate Messner book tip, too. I’m going to look into getting it!

  3. Wonderful, Elsie. I need to try this, even if I don’t share. I want to know what I would hear if I really paid attention. I would say usually it seems so very quiet. Love the varied words you used, including this: “They gargle as they downshift, engine protesting until they make it to the top.” Terrific!

  4. Your poetic catalogue of sounds really came alive for me. I love this exercise! Even as the trucks invaded the nature sounds, the writing maintained a natural elegance.

  5. You are not only the master of the eye, but of the ear, too! I love listening to sounds, too. Especially the doves who’ve moved into my backyard. It’s such a soothing sound they make. I love the comment from the guy above with the snoring parrot!

  6. My screened porch provides the soundtrack I love. So peaceful, so quiet. I look forward to the warmer weather where I get to enjoy it again. Thanks so much for sharing your soundtrack.

  7. Sounds are such a powerful way to make an everyday piece of writing unique (and also to practice noticing what we often tune out)! I always try to do some mini-lessons several times a year where I help my students think of sounds to add to their descriptions, and I’m saving this post as an example for them! 🙂

  8. I loved how the dump trucks “gargle!” It will be interesting to think about how the soundtrack will change once the subdivision is complete. I love the idea of a soundtrack for each special place.

  9. Sounds and images… I love that exercise. I’m going to try it on my balcony as soon as I’m sure the snow is really over. Some could arrive on Sunday for us. Just one more left?

  10. Terje says:

    Sounds are hard to write. Your ear is well tuned to the sounds. Knowing about all the construction going on in your area it is surprise you were able to hear any birds.

  11. My post was a little like this today too although I didn’t know to call it this “soundtrack of a place” Describing these sounds really helped us have a sense of your place. I am very in tune with sound. I notice things when others can tune them out, Makes me think of doing this more often. Thanks!

  12. Judy C. says:

    Listening is an art that needs to be developed and honed. When Max & I walk, I trying listening for the songs of the birds and ducks, sometimes a bull frog joins in. So many other noises come into play on those walks. Might be inspiration for a slice. Your descriptions are awesome. I felt like I was sitting on your patio with you.

  13. What a slice! “Engines invade my sanctuary. Airplanes drone above, fading as it nears the airport. Leaving me to sigh a wish for a new travel adventure” This is my fav of yours this week! I love this idea, and I’m kind of jonesing for that book now… You really did capture the sound words of this place. From the right descript for each thing to the onomatopoeia. Absolutely LOVE!

  14. I love this idea especially since I have been awake for a couple of nights at 1 AM, a time when I am usually fast asleep. It was amazing listening to the sounds of the house as I sat in my recliner.

  15. rosecappelli says:

    Wonderful slice. You lingered on each sound for just the right amount time. Then you kept listening to add more layers. Yesterday I helped a first grader write “buuuummmpppp” the way you wrote “rrruuummmbbblle” to make sure the reader stretched those sounds. I could have used your slice as a mentor text!

  16. Love those dump trucks gargling as they downshift. What a perfect choice of words. Loved the sounds of your place. Ilook forward to next year’s slice from the same place!

  17. Lynn says:

    What a lovely, lovely slice Elsie! Today, I woke to the sound of Morning Doves cooing me to start a new day! I will definitely make it a point to slice one of my soundtracks! Thanks for the suggestion.

  18. Way to be mindful of the world around you! This morning while I was eating breakfast, I looked up because I could hear the birds singing outside. It was still dark out, but apparently I had left the patio door open a crack last night and I could hear them. I love stopping to listen. It helps me slow down.

  19. I have a parrot. And he snores. Each morning as I type and listen to the clickety clack of keyboard, I’m at peace listening to his funny noises as the dog is at my feet sleeping soundly too. Lots of morning noises come to life in my house! So admire your ability to put it all together…

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