Sounding off: an appreciation of and guide to nautical noises
November 7, 2019 9:04 AM   Subscribe

"People who are land-bound will never get to see, they will only look at those sound signals as irritants, noise pollution, something that they could live without. But when you're out there in the fog, and you're completely encased with visibility 10 to 15 feet, when you hear that sound signal, then you know you have a friend out there in the fog." Unnamed East Coast mariner, in Alvin Curran's "Maritime Rites" (YouTube), the title track from his collection of ten environmental concerts for radio (YT playlist). Don't have your sea-ears yet?

When and how to sound off, an animated video from Boater Exam. Also Sea Rules of the Road: The Display of Light & Audio Signals, as text and graphic depictions of sea signals. Bonus sounds: Nantucket Lightship (YT; Lighthouse Friends); You know how to whistle, don't you? Sounds of the Bosun's Call - 2010 Sea Scout Manual, 11th ed. Video 2.

Back to Maritime Rites: Curran's programs use specifically recorded natural sounds as musical counterpoint to the solo improvisations by John Cage, Joseph Celli, Clark Coolidge, Jon Gibson, Malcolm Goldstein, Steve Lacy, George Lewis, Pauline Oliveros, and Leo Smith. As an expression of sonic geography, Maritime Rites brings together different areas of the Seaboard in a single musical moment. (Gumroad review)
posted by filthy light thief (9 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
The sound of waves lapping against the hull of a sailboat while the stays clank lightly against the mast is with me always. That and seagulls.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:06 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


I spent my highschool years living a few blocks from the beach in Half Moon Bay. The sound of the fog horn from Princeton harbor could be heard for miles close to the coast. I loved hearing it late at night, every 2 minutes or so (boooop). Between that an hearing the waves crash on stormy nights, it was one of the best places for sleep I've ever lived.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:25 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


riverboat whistles

(I'm pretty sure these are mostly from the Whistle Echoes Of The Ohio And Mississippi River Steamboats albums that I'm pretty sure I heard about through mefi.)
posted by scruss at 10:39 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Ohhh, if you like these things, please listen to Here I Am And Here Be Danger (the piece starts at 1:45). It's a beautiful poetic piece about foghorns and love, by a friend of mine who now works at Radiolab.
posted by oulipian at 12:41 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


You know how to whistle, don't you? Sounds of the Bosun's Call - 2010 Sea Scout Manual, 11th ed. Video 2.

I was in Sea Scouts. I never learned to use a bosun's whistle. Did learn to sail, though, so good enough.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:12 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I live next to a river with a good amount of big shipping traffic, and I love the sounds the ships make. The tugboats motor sounds so are so low you almost feel them more than hear them. It was also kind of delightful the time one woke half the neighborhood up with the foghorn (over and over and over) .
posted by sepviva at 7:09 PM on November 7


It was also kind of delightful the time one woke half the neighborhood up with the foghorn (over and over and over)

Heh.

Duluth is good like that.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:20 PM on November 7


Sea Scouts as well! I could do the captain-on-deck whistle everyone knows from Star Trek but one of the other Scouts could play the Wombles theme tune. Hateful show-off.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:59 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I live on the Vineyard, and as I complained about on askme this happened recently. I have not heard the foghorn since and I miss it terribly. One person's noise pollution is another's sense of place. I can remember the play of headlights on the curvy road of my small town, the slight rumble of the downtown 1/9 train in new york, the louder clacking of the 7 in woodside... sounds help imprint memory and nautical sounds are among the best sounds.
posted by vrakatar at 5:49 PM on November 8


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