Friday, 28 November 2014

Night Noise Valparaiso: 12 - 13 November 14

For some reason I can't sleep tonight. Possibly because, having been on a ration of connectivity due to a dearth of recharging electricity and hot points, I'm now able to compose in bed. More probably it's the extra coffees due to the inducement of easy access to an electric kettle, the diuretic effect of caffeine and age.
I'm in an old colonial house. All steep stairs and high ceilinged rooms in the old part of town. The window is open. Voices drift up from the cobbled street, the occasional exhaustless car grinds up the steep incline, clanking the slack drain cover. A radio plays from another place. Squabbling pelicans debate which boat's gunnel they're going to poop on. The inevitable alarm warbles in the distance as the bin lorrymen chuck glass bottles into their wagon. The compactor growls, the air brakes squeal and they roll away downhill, to allow another new quiet to descend; the soft thrum of air conditioners. The singular signature of a pigeon's flight as one shuffles the perching order on a window ledge. A key turns in the iron gate below; the hinges need lubrication and I count sixty footfalls up the long outside staircase. All in a single flight, a long fall. It's not exactly the silence of the night, but it does make a change from the usual barking dogs and non-dawn cockerels. There's even the faint tang of fish and the sea, for the Pacific Ocean is just three blocks away. This night we're in Valparaiso.
Last night I had the noise silence of Ocoa National Park. A quiet so intense that I could hear the gnawing of a rodent, feeding on fallen seeds and the feel-sound, the vibration of a passing ass' hoof fall. The occasional soft gust of air would rattle the stiff palm fronds, a sound of rain in a forest's canopy. A silence concentrated by the knowledge that the nearest human is many miles away.
It's that under-appreciated sense. Sound. The one that lacks the wow factors of sight and smell. It crept up on us today, a graduated increase with each decreasing mile towards town. With each too-close passing collectivo bus, each in a manic competition for that one last passenger. I needed three sets of eyes, the navigator her fish-lens. The reek of exhaust melding with fish meal factory. Sound as a pollution, that has driven the song birds to alter their habits, so now they serenade for a mate in the relative quiet of the sodium infused, undark city night.
The silence returns. Somebody's church chimes the forgotten hour, as a thrush sings a night time song in Sotomajor Square.