My sister recently acquired a new washing machine.  There was a time when washing machines just stopped when they were done.  For that matter, there was a time when one had to watch the washing machine…  What was I saying?  Oh yes.  Then washing machines, or some of them, had a little bell.  Not much later, they went “beep” when they were done.  Not this new one.  I’m told that it plays a jolly little tune when it’s finished.

All of which got me to thinking in a disorganised way of the various artificial sounds we hear, more or less all the time or at least part of the time.  There is, in many places, a gentle background hum which we never notice, or rarely notice, from our electric power.  In North America, that turns out to be a slightly flat B natural tone (in Europe, it’s a slightly flat A flat).  The vacuum cleaner which is running in the background is an F sharp.  The other day a string trimmer was running outside; it is more musically ambitious, being a chord of C sharp and G sharp.  Telephones used to be a pretty formidable bell (ours still is) but now they, too, can be had which beep or play tunes — almost any tune.  Sometimes in the middle of a concert…  Then there is traffic, which usually isn’t a specific tone.

Some artificial sounds can be pleasant, of course — music is, but I’m not thinking of that.  A tractor, for instance, in the distance working a field, or a distant propeller airplane.

But how often are we able to be in a place which doesn’t have those sounds?  And listen to the natural sounds?  Perhaps the wind in the trees — or waves on a shore?  Or a brook?  Or birds?  Or busy insects?  A chipmunk, busily finding things in the leaves?  It’s not easy to do.

It’s worth taking the trouble to find quiet in our lives, and then listen to that quiet.