I recorded something last week. I don’t know what. First order of business: do you?

For context, G.F. and I moved last month to an apartment on the cusp of Kensington and Boro Park in Brooklyn. Our neighborhood is Hasidic/Bangladeshi/Pakistani/Polish/Albanian/Mexican/Caribbean, among others. We have, in the course of our sensory adjustment to the new neighborhood, gotten acclimated to the muezzin issuing five calls to prayer every day over a loudspeaker, to lots of children running around the building, and to the daily delivery of goat carcasses by the truckful to the butcher down the block. But some things are still unclear, even if we have guesses. e.g., Why do so many men congregate outside the closed-looking dentist’s office across the street? What’s in the jungle that comprises our (inaccessible) backyard? What and why does a chorus of women sometimes chant, as above, around dinner time?

Church Avenue, 1903
Our new neighborhood, 1903

I’ve been researching sonic conflict in urban space for a few years now, and Brooklyn is a great place to do it. As much time as Brooklynites spend around people of different habits, cultural variation is so dense and dynamic here that even longtime residents tend to find themselves perplexed by sounds they can’t quite place. For some, what can’t be identified is heard as evidence of a special diversity. For others, or for the same people under different circumstances, weird sounds are rude, inappropriate, extraneous, heretical, and/or invasive. (I’ve heard people mention each of these.) We seem to have something of an itch to locate sound, not only in terms of where it’s coming from but in terms of what it means. We want a reference, often desperately. Why?

So, the second order of business: why do you think unidentified sound is so disturbing?

And the third: what mysterious sounds (recordings or descriptions, from wherever) would you like to share?

Get Adobe Flash player