Thursday, 9 February 2012

White Noise

While I was ill the other day,  (yes, I was, as a matter of fact: I felt quite dreadful, thanks for asking, and for quite a few days I had a REALLY high temperature and you know I actually don't think I got anywhere near enough sympathy, but that's another story [the story of my life, possibly, blub, blub, blub]), I spent quite a lot of time in an odd state where I wasn't quite asleep but I wasn't in any sense sensible, (not unusual, some might say).

Anyway, I could vaguely hear the radio mumbling to itself in another room for a lot of the time that I was lying in this insensible - or semi-sensible - state, and I found the sound rather comforting. I wasn't up to listening to anything coherent but I liked hearing a soothing kind of burbling noise.

That led me to thinking about radio stations that I might set up, if I were rich, to serve a similar calming kind of purpose for their listeners. I decided that I would quite like the following sounds to be available on the airwaves at all times, just in case I wanted to switch them on:

Cricket commentary (well, we have that pretty nearly full time already, come to think of it);

The sea - for connoisseurs there could be sections of the day devoted to different seas and oceans of the world and people could form groups to discuss which they enjoyed most and why, (or not - they might prefer to continue with book clubs as usual; it was merely a suggestion);

Insect noise - that kind of background static that you get on a hot day in Victoria;

 The distant, impossible to quite make out conversations you hear on telephone wires sometimes, while you are waiting for a number to connect - very often these seem to be quite vehement arguments being conducted by Chinese people, from what little one can tell;

Shipping forecasts - Dogger, Cromarty, Finisterre et cetera;

The applause of audiences following really superb concerts by the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic or the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra;

Football results, like the ones that seemed to run for hours on a Saturday afternoon on the television in my childhood: West Bromwich Albion nil; Westham Wanderers 2 et cetera et cetera, all in that slightly liturgical lilt, as if reading out a psalm;

Country auctioneers calling cattle sales;

Rain on a corrugated iron roof - again different times of the day could be allotted for different rain patterns and, possibly, for the true afficionadoes, for different qualities of corrugated iron;

School playgrounds - we used to live next door to a school and I enjoyed the way the day was punctuated with eruptions of shrieks and laughter and shouts. Mind you, just like a school day, the station should only broadcast such sounds at times that coincided with the school breaks themselves; the rest of the time listeners should be able to hear simply the noise of the streets around the school;

Country racecallers calling picnic races;

A full list of prices on the stock exchange for the day, with rolling updates, (just a continuing drone, in other words - not broadcast for the purposes of the information contained within the reports).

I look forward to many more equally tranquilising suggestions.


  1. I couple I know suffer from tinnitus, she I think more than he. They sleep with the radio quietly on to break up whatever patterns of sound would I suppose start to disturb them. They tune the radio to a local NPR affiliate, and he says sometimes fall asleep to the BBC's "The World" broadcast.

    1. I met a couple in England who keep Radio 4 on at a low volume in their bedroom ALL the time. She even insisted on it during childbirth. Batty, of course.

  2. Z -- I think you have been beaten to the punch. There are "apps" for smartphones with ambient noise loops. Though, I don't think there is a soccer score one, so maybe you could sell your idea.

    On a similar note, my dad, a composer and orchestrator, ALWAYS works with the TV on in the background, full volume. It amazes me, but he says he can't concentrate without it.

    Hope you feel better. (I am married to a nurse, so I'm sure I get even less sympathy than you do, so I know how it feels.)

    1. Your dad writes music with the telly on - that is amazing (although I haven't heard his music, of course, perhaps everything then becomes clear)

  3. I have often wondered why there are no radio stations that simply broadcast pleasant droning talking to fall asleep to. Here in the UK we have Radio 4, but this is a bit of a chimera because between book at bedtime and the shipping forecast there's often some horrible loud comedy show. I dont know why the producers don't twig that everybody wants to hear something quiet and monotonous between 11pm and midnight (like the football scores for instance)

    For absolute guaranteed sleep, I would have a radio show broadcasting a soundtrack recording loop of the complete works of Bob Ross

    1. "I got paint all the way up to the furrow."

  4. Even better than the auctioneer is the Stock and Station Agent who broadcasts the numbers and prices per kilo for cattle and sheep on their way to slaughter.

    The sheep ones are especially soothing in good seasons, with wethers and woolly lambs and washed-up ewes with precise numbers of teeth.

    (Now that's really counting sheep!)

    1. I want to hear that - where do I have to go?

  5. You probably have to live in the country or maybe get a rural ABC station digitally, usually between 6.45 and 7.45 am. These days I am not usually listening to the local radio station at that time.

    But I do believe you might have some contacts in the ABC who could advise you. New England Regional here would be a goer. If so, I really hope you get the guy who used to do it, because he must also be an auctioneer. Best of both worlds.

    1. My contacts in the ABC have been so successful at getting digital radio to Canberra, hem hem