TAoN No. 52: A Sonic Bucket List
Plus: Something To Notice; CrazyBird Podcast; A New Icebreaker; and more
|Rob Walker||Sep 8|| 9|
The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy In the Everyday offers exercises, prompts, provocations, games and things you can actually do to build attention muscles, stave off distraction, pick up on what everybody else overlooked, and experience the joy of noticing. Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Knopf. This newsletter offers related news and ideas and noteworthy projects that have come along since I finished the book. ****Subscribe or unsubscribe at: robwalker.substack.com.****
The Lesson of the Sonic Bucket List
What sounds are important to you?
She has a condition that at some point in the not-too-distant future is going to take her hearing away. As a result she has compiled “a sonic bucket list” — a list of 11 “sounds that I want to commit to memory.” That means making the effort to experience or re-experience the roar of a sports crowd, an Italian opera, waves crashing on the beach.
As Webb explains, compiling her list was no quick or easy task. “It’s not until you’re told that you’re not going to be able to hear things that you start thinking about all the sounds that you like.” The documentary picks up with her having four sounds left on her list, and accompanies her in listening to, for instance, a soaring church organ and (of all things!) a private bagpipe concert.
Sound can connect us to the past, perhaps in emotional ways, and Webb’s quest is partly about grounding what she hears in her other senses. But the deeper lesson is that she now treasures these sounds that she’d always taken for granted.
I don’t know that it’s possible to re-create her “bucket list” approach in any genuine way, unless you’re in a similar circumstance. But I think it can inspire anybody:
Spend a week being alert to the sounds that mean the most to you, the ones that have meaning and spark memory — the ones you’d miss. (The sound of the dog’s nails clicking on our hardwood floors comes to mind.)
Now spend a week each on other senses. What tastes would you most want to commit to memory? What scents? So forth. (Just don’t do them all at once; spend a week or even a month on each. It’s a good background quest to have running as you go about your life, to prod you to notice things you’d normally just gloss over.)
A final note: As I was writing this, I wondered if any TAoN readers might have experienced the loss of hearing, or any sense — and what you might think of Webb’s story, or this subject in general. Feedback/insights welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Something To Notice
“Something To Notice” is this newsletter’s latest feature, debuting right now: A simple suggestion for something you might want to make an effort to notice in the weeks ahead. That’s it. Here’s this week’s suggestion:
The shadows of birds.
Back story (strictly optional): I glanced out my office window in the middle of a sunny day the other day, and noticed a bird’s shadow flit across the street. I thought that was cool. Now I’m on the lookout for bird shadows all the time. They’re elusive.
Have a suggestion for Something To Notice? Tell me: email@example.com
I’ve been going through the (digital) notebook where I collected material for The Art of Noticing, and picking out fun/useful stuff that didn’t end up in the book, and sharing three examples per issue (even if they’re “old”). Here goes:
Some Instructions. “These event scores are performances open to your interpretation. You’re urged to perform these instructions privately, publicly, or “negatively” (i.e., not at all).” These five “performance” ideas from Noah Eli Gordon are fantastic!
“Artists and Families Draw Attention to Death on the Roads of NYC.” Remember, these items are old — but this was a good project:
Icebreaker Of The Week
This week’s icebreaker comes from Wm Henry Morris:
Which book did you read in college or high school that was actually interesting enough that you still think or talk about it sometimes?
He adds: “This has the advantage of not only interesting talk about whatever nonfiction and fiction books the folks in the conversation mention, but, in my experience, it also leads to talk about favorite teachers and classes, the merits and demerits of assigned reading (and formal education, in general), post-formal education reading habits, reading recommendations, what makes a book or work of art memorable, etc.”
Agree — great stuff! Thank you!
I continue to work through the backlog of submissions, but as always, I still want more:
Send your favorite icebreaker (whether you made it up or found it elsewhere) to firstname.lastname@example.org
In Other News
I had a lovely time talking to Wioleta Kaminska and Matt Van Rys on their new CrazyBird podcast — which explores a “mutual fascination with nature and creativity.” We talked about “creative ways we can practice and enhance our ability to notice, pay attention and, consequently, engage with the world.” And, of course, about The Art of Noticing book. It was a lot of fun, and I suspect many readers of this newsletter would enjoy the show. More here.
Why Is It So Hard To Draw A Bike From Memory? Fascinating piece in friend of TAoN Mark Frauenfelder’s terrific The Magnet newsletter. (I subscribe). Includes me briefly chiming in on the subject, too.
“Airplane Mode is a new game that simulates … a long plane flight in economy class. [Y]ou can … enjoy snacks and meal service, dig around in your personal item carrier, play sudoko, read a book… ” etc. More here. Obviously the question is what would Nina Katchadourian do with this game?
Latest sound shot:
& finally: In talks and workshops for the book, I often ask if anybody knows what phase the moon is in. There’s usually someone who does — but seldom more than one or two. I do this to make the point that just the simple act of paying a little attention to the moon can feel like a way to connect with the natural world. So obviously I was totally delighted when friend (and hero) of TAoN Rubi McGrory offered up this “corn moon” (explained here) illustration on Instagram the other day:
Okay, that’s it! Next issue in two weeks.
As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, and your icebreakers: email@example.com.
Thanks for reading!
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All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032
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