A year measured in sounds (part 1, noodles)

• ~800 words • 4 minute read

For a while now I've been intending to compile all of my audio recordings from the past year into a single, unbroken recording with annotations on where and what the sounds were. Last night I started that process and quickly realized that that track would be 3 hours long!

So, while I might still make that longer version for my enjoyment, I'm going to try and be a little more selective in posting here and do it in parts. Originally I thought I should do countries or regions but that proved to be trickier than I thought.

Instead I compiled every snippet of myself making music. Music is/was a big part of my life and a year away from an instrument was daunting. I managed to find instruments to noodle around on though and even found myself humming, whistling and singing to myself a lot more than usual — a style of music-making that lends itself to long walks and wanders, which were my top activity by far.

It still came out to about 20 minutes and I've posted it below. Here's what you'll hear, in order:

  1. Portland, Oregon. Playing on the piano, in my parents home, not long before I left. I used to play the piano a lot many years ago and was never good by any stretch, but it's a fun way to explore ideas. (0:00-1:30)
  2. Portland, Oregon. Playing on a guitar, also at my parents house. This was the morning I left. (1:30-2:00)
  3. São Paulo, Brazil. Playing an instrument for the first time in several months here. I remember being really happy to hold it, in spit of my fingers hurting. The person whose guitar I was playing was a professional musician and his guitar was well taken care of. (2:00-4:45)
  4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I spent most of my time at the beach and getting ready for a very abbreviated, surprise trip back home in the coming week. But there was a guitar, so I had to play it (4:45-7:55)
  5. Reykjavik, Iceland. Amazingly, this was probably only two or three weeks removed from the last sound bit. No instruments but plenty of melodies in my head that I wanted to record for posterity. (7:55-8:45)
  6. Skagaströnd, Iceland. The sounds of water, walking through snow and ice. This isn't music — I'm cheating. As I was listening through things I found some of these sounds to beautiful to omit. (8:45-9:20)
  7. Paris, France. Whistling a ditty I didn't want to forget. No instruments again (and no doors on any of the rooms in the place I stayed, which is a different story). Spoiler alert: I'm a terrible whistler! And I think it's only considered being tone-deaf if you aren't aware how off you are. (9:20-9:35)
  8. Zanzibar, Tanzania. Listening to someone give a sermon (?) over a loudspeaker while I have a conversation. Again, cheating, but such a fascinating sound. (9:35-10:00)
  9. Athens, Greece. Singing melody ideas to myself walking through the street of Athens. It sounds curiously similar to parts of the ditty I sang in Iceland, though this is several months removed at this point. Melodies roll around like stones in our head until they're ready, I guess. (10:00-10:25)
  10. Thessaloniki, Greece. Walking through the woods outside Thessaloniki, listening to birds and enjoying the crunch of pine needles beneath the running shoes I'd later abandon in Malaysia. Last time I cheat on here, I promise. (10:25-11:00)
  11. Sofia, Bulgaria. Some six months later I find a guitar again. A soft, harmonics-based melody. This was an emotionally odd time in my trip; I'd been traveling a long time, been many, disparate places and odd things had happened at home. I spent a lot of time playing the guitar in this apartment, which was really more for decoration than playing. (11:00-11:30)
  12. Sofia, Bulgaria. The place I stayed had no kitchen but it did have a piano! The world's most amazing out of tune piano, to the point where it sounded more like a prepared-piano. (11:30-11:55)
  13. Sofia, Bulgaria. More guitar noodles, though this session was a little less subdued than the other and I'm more actively trying to develop some idea than simply emote, I think. Like I said —  a lot of time spent playing guitar in Bulgaria! (11:55-13:30)
  14. Bangkok, Thailand. Many months removed from the last guitar session in Bulgaria, my host's son was kind enough to lend me his guitar. I played simply to move my fingers and keep things fresh, but while I was doing that a heavy monsoon rain swept in. I recorded this for way too long and was almost tempted to leave it off, but it's the last time I'd play an instrument and record it for the remainder of this trip. (13:30-20:40)
  15. Tokyo, Japan. Humming and walking. Slowly. Quietly. Four months later I still feel like I just left this place and I don't know why (20:40-21:20)