Stop and Listen

I read recently that creative-minded people may have a propensity for heightened irritation when listening to extraneous sounds, like people chewing. More so than the average person. I am no genius, but I do consider myself a creative person. I like to create. I like to make. I like to explore. See. Feel. Do. Hear. Too much sometimes. As a creative person, I am open to stimuli that may not spark inspiration in others. Truth ink, everyone is moved by different things. As a photographer, I am stopped in my tracks by perfect contrasts in color. Lines that intersect and create interest. Textures that define a space and must be captured. My eye is constantly seeing and composing and compositing. (Not composting, that’s different. Compositing.) It drives my kids crazy sometimes. Mom – you do not need to take a picture of that. Yes. I do. It is compulsory. An internal pull that drives me. Draws me. Must. Capture. Must. Create.

Creative stimulus can come in many forms – not always visual either. Sound can be a formidable muse. Have you listened to First Aid Kit yet? (Click here for just one of their lovely songs.) Or exactly the opposite, it can cause creativity to come to a screeching halt. In my early expatriation, when I was a wee more mute due to less social connectivity (real live face to face social connectivity), I listened a lot. Tried to glean one tiny word of comprehension listening to the Danes in the shop. Tak! Hej! Hej! I could pick that up quickly – but everything else was too quick and roll-y. I could pick up inflections and tone, but no vocabulary. But listening to everything, more than simply the new language, I found that the everyday sounds that surround you here are different. To me.

Think about a place you have traveled to that is dissimilar from your normal everyday. Close your eyes. Turn off any stimulus. Now think about the sounds you may encounter there and how they can be unlike your normal. Is it a day trip to the mountains? Can you hear the sound of your feet crunching on the snow. The sound as the wind blows through the tall and swaying fir trees as chunks of wintery precipitation fall in clumps to the ground. You may live where there is snow regularly, so could be your normal. (Not now hopefully in mid-May, unless you live in Colorado apparently.) Or your different may be traveling to a tropical beach and hearing the soft rustle of the palm fronds push against each other while the gentle (or not so gentle) waves pull in and out. Occasionally a coconut plunks to the ground with a thud. But it sounds different. Do you know what I mean? You notice it. More so than the symphonic background track to your ritual everyday that we tend to tune out for the regularity of it.

Things definitely sound different here. Certain things so much so, that I noticed it straight away. And it defines my sense of space. My new sense of space. My new stimuli. I have been collecting along the way (which also makes my kids groan) tidbits of sound since I arrived. Do you have a “Voice Memos” app? Very handy for grabbing quick bits of sound and archiving for later enjoyment or sharing with you. Conjuring memories and stimulus from that moment. I collect bits of sound that made me stop and listen. How about that? That sounds different. Different from where I am “from.” I particularly love hearing the bells of the cathedrals. To me this is a very European sound. It helps define the specificity of a place. It sounds like my here. Listen below to more sounds that define Copenhagen for me:

Have a listen:

Or this one:

Like the background in a Bourne Identity movie – emergency vehicles do not sound like that in Oregon. Or anywhere I’ve lived in the States (Kansas, California, Washington, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania or Texas). It sounds like here. It sounds like Copenhagen. It sounds like Denmark. It sounds like Europe to me.

Click on and listen to this.

If you live in Copenhagen, you will easily recognize this sound. This is how you check in and check ud (out) of the public transportation with your Rejsekort (Travel card.) Don’t forget to check out or you’ll be charged the maximum amount next time you use your kort! This sound has already become familiar and regular and no longer registers as unique, so part of our everyday it has been rendered.

This one may seem easy – but listen carefully:

Every day the Royal Guard march between the Amalienborg Slot and the Rosenborg Slot (Palaces). If you are lucky enough to be cruising around the old town near noon, you too will get treated to their pompous symphonic stylings. This was crazy to me at first. There isn’t some grand event occuring? They do this regularly? Hver dag (every day) in fact? Wow. That’s different. But having Royals in your everyday is different, as I shared earlier. What may not be as easy to detect in the audio is the clacking sound of me hurriedly changing the tiles on the now-gone “Happy Wall” to read this.


Very difficult to change them all before someone comes along and starts changing them behind you. Clack, clack, clack. I will remember that sound. And that memory. I’m sad that the wall was taken down. But new art will fill its space.

Even something familiar, like the sounds of the fun 5K – The Color Run – sound different in Denmark. Obviously because they are speaking another language – but I was surprised to be surprised listening as they counted down each new wave of runners to the popular songs pumping on the radio here – that the countdown was in Danish. Of course it was. Here – listen in:

I will leave you on the Metro to the Copenhagen Lufthavn (airport) with its distinct sounds and Danish voice announcing the stops. I might have to record all the stops so as to practice how to say them correctly. What sounds are unique where you are? What sounds define your space. Please share!

Cheers from Denmark.

2 thoughts on “Stop and Listen

  1. I got a microphone just for capturing found sounds, but I find that it is too annoying to pull out very often. I am not a true artist.

    But, I loved this post because I know what you mean.

    1. I know my sound quality is not so great, but it I hope it gave you a feel. Picture this – girl on crutches – stops on cobblestone sidewalk – whips out special sound equipment – attaches to phone – nearly falls over. Now a crutch-phone rigging might just work and be inconspicuous! Cheers friend!

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