Sonic Paddling

Once upon a time I found myself in an upper level college course called Creative Musicianship 391. Our first assignment of the semester was to take a sonic walk. Naturally everybody’s like, “Ayo teach, WTF is a sonic walk?”  We were tasked with strolling the streets of Ann Arbor later that evening and listening intently to whatever noise our ears could pick up. For one hour we had to walk, or sit, but always be listening - to the loud and quiet, near and far. Slowly subtleties surfaced and I could hear the low hum of big academic buildings buzzing through the silence. A dog barking and a door shutting three blocks away. The leaves rustling. Conversations floating out the window of a second story room.

Our goal was to find rhythm. It could come in the form of a washing machine spinning, or wiper blades on a windshield. There was no correct or incorrect observation. Rhythm doesn’t always come in the form of a kick drum.

So last weekend when Annie and I found ourselves at a tiny inland lake on Whidbey Island (1 hour north of Seattle) - the quiet reminded me of that sonic walk six Januaries ago. We paddled to the center of Goss Lake and stopped. There were no motorboats. Just us and the ducks breaking the glassy surface, listening and watching while the world spun by.


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