There is a city in northern Italy named Cremona whose claim to fame is the Stradivarius violin that was created in the late 1600’s. The Museo del Violino or Museum of the Violin in Cremona has become so concerned that the sound of the Stradivari violin may be lost forever that the museum has embarked on recording every individual note and transition that can be played on a Stradivari violin. Roughly 100,000 of them. This turns out to be very a challenging task in a very noisy world. They need absolute silence to make the recordings. The first attempts failed. The man-made sounds outside the studio made their way in. A car door slam. A truck rumbles. A woman dragging a suitcase across the cobblestone street. All those sounds made a signature in the initial recordings. Fortunately, the city’s mayor is the President of the Antonio Stradivarius Violin Foundation. He asked the city to be quiet during the recordings. They have blocked the street, and everyone is trying to keep it down.
This reinforced what I have been thinking for some time. One of the rarest of things on the planet is the man-made-free, sound of silence. I have camped in the Rocky Mountains and hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail. Even hours into the wilderness there is a persistent background of man-made sounds. Someone running a distant chainsaw. Far away roads with cars traveling. Jets flying over at 30,000 feet all make a sound signature.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates as part of his series on climate change laid down an astounding fact. By the year 2060 the number of buildings on the planet will double. He said that is the equivalent of constructing a city the size of New York every 4 months. The world is going to get a whole lot noisier.
When I was younger, I used to work a room full of people. At a party I made the rounds. Contributing loudly with music and conversation. Now even though I’ve got 100+ channels of Sirius XM in my car I frequently drive along in silence. Some people thrive with a lot of sound around them. Television always on. Radio always playing. Can they hear themselves?
I had a transition in the Moosehead Lake region in north west Maine. It was the quietest place I’ve ever been. We camped by a lake. I heard no jets. I heard no vehicles. I heard nothing but the silly calls of loons and the occasional crash of a moose through the underbrush. All I heard was my mind free associating in my inner space. It’s a wonderful playground in there. Synapsis flying from my right hemisphere to left. Left brain thought trains coming in on time. Making appointments. Planning the next trip. Counting dollars. And running into the right brain who says I love what you do for me, but let’s listen to some music. How about White Bird by It’s a Beautiful Day? Listen to this….White bird must fly, or she will die…the violin solo sends you away. I’ll bet it would be awesome on a Stradivari! All in my head. The right brain is so much fun.
A friend gifted me a massage and then an hour in a sensory deprivation tank. No light. No sound. Just floating weightlessly naked in a warm salt water sea. When I walked outside afterword it was rush hour on the city street. I sat on a bench listening and watching the play before me. The Doppler sound of a skate board striking each crack in the sidewalk as the rider went by. My friend peeled me off the bench and took me out to dinner. My mind refreshed by marinating in its own broth.
Back in Cremona I hope they accomplish preserving the ancient sound of the Stradivarius. In the process the city may learn they like the extremely rare sound of silence and make it a habit. I recommend it.