What will the apocalypse sound like?
I’ve been thinking recently about different things we take for granted, and which will be massively changed if an apocalypse occurs. One of them would be the sights and sounds around us, and this week I’m looking at sound. Now, I live in the country, so often things can be pretty quiet – aside from the yahoos who like to come out for the weekend and roar past my study window. But otherwise, during the week, you hear birds, the occasional car, the even rarer plane, and coyotes howling at night. I can hear my neighbors who have visitors chatting as they say their farewells, and sometimes alcohol fueled parties last late into the night – especially on long weekends.
In the city – where I spent most of my years previous – we lived beside busy roads, and you fell asleep to the sounds of ambulances screaming, police helicopters circling overhead, rowdy people making late night trips home, along with the near constant sounds of planes, cars, and honking horns. In the car, I turn on the radio for company or distraction, the tv or radio for background noise while I do other things.
And yet, if there’s an apocalypse, so much of that will be silenced, possibly forever. I’ve already heard discussions that the end of the Oil Age (or Petroleum Age, if you prefer) is a matter of when, not if, meaning the noise of cars is already on borrowed time. Then if you’re talking apocalypse, the sad truth is that lots of people are likely not going to survive, meaning they won’t be there to contribute to the sounds of everyday.
Now, I’m not going to go all crazy on you and suggest the apocalypse will be nothing but screams and silence – at least, not forever (screaming has a tendency to be short-lived). And like I say, I live in the country, so I’m getting pretty used to the general quiet of the house on a weekday, when like now, all I can hear is the ticking of my 1928 mantel clock. But even I will likely notice the absence of other sounds, like appliances kicking on or off, the click of a light switch producing any result.
But I think what I’ll miss most of all is music. I love listening to music, and no matter that I often listen to it as a half-ignored background to my life, I still hold it in great esteem. It makes me feel good, it makes the day and arduous tasks pass more easily, it brings me joy. And while I’m capable of playing an instrument, and I might sing somewhat better than a duck, I certainly don’t list myself as someone with great musical talent. Because to face facts, most people don’t have a lot of musical talent. It’s a gift. So when we can no longer press a button to access those with great talent, what do we do?
Man has long been capable of producing his own music – even if by some standards it might not be all that “musical.” Cowboys and trail folk could sing beside the fire. You just need a stick and something to pound to make a drum, one of the most basic of instruments other than the human voice. Hymns can be sung without organ or piano. People often sing (and did so in the past) to themselves as they worked, or got together with one person with an instrument and made music, whether at a bonfire or ceilidh. And I think that there’s something inside all of us that makes music necessary, even if we don’t have the best voice, even if we croak when we’d rather burst out in a brilliant soprano.
So, perhaps even when the other sounds cease, and the coyotes howl and the birds sing, you will hear human voices singing with them. Because if we raise our voices in song, perhaps we can also find hope to fight for a future.
What do you think?
Sorry I missed you last week – it was Thanksgiving weekend here, and family time took precedence (plus a crazy week prior). Thanks for reading, and have a great week, full of the sounds of the times. 🙂