Miskatonic University Press

Listen Up

field.recordings toronto

I recommend a feature article in the 18 April 2020 Toronto Star by Douglas Quan: Listen up: In these disquieting COVID-19 times, hushed cities are making a loud impression on our ears. It begins:

For a blind man in London, Ont., it’s the pitter-patter of approaching footsteps on the sidewalk.

For a librarian in midtown Toronto, it was the rhythmic singsong of a robin perched in a tree.

And for a post-doctoral researcher in Vancouver, it’s the mundane everyday things, such as a cable thwacking against a flagpole in the wind.

In the disquiet of COVID-19 news and the hush of locked-down cities, peoples’ ears are suddenly perking up to new sounds — or sounds that were always there but just drowned out by the whir of urban life.

I’m that librarian. Quan got in touch because he saw a field recording I made nearby and uploaded to the Soundscapes in the Pandemic project on the Radio Aporee sound map. I’ve only uploaded a couple so far, but I’m the only one in Toronto as yet, which is why he noticed. We chatted for half an hour on the phone: his interview and follow-ups were thorough.

Screenshot of Radio Aporee map
Screenshot of Radio Aporee map

My part in the piece is very small. Do pay attention to what all the others say: they are perceptive people with good insights.

Wherever you are, if you can open a window or get outside for a walk—and you can hear—it’s worth taking some time to stay still and listen to what it sounds like outside. What was it like before? Why is it like that now? What might it be like in the future?