The word ‘sound’ has been playing in my head for the last few days since I met a man who was taking photographs out on the Anne Valley Walk in Dunhill and he greeted me and said: Great to be in a place where you hear not a sound, isn’t it?
I nodded in agreement knowing that he was referring to the peace of the place but I was half tempted to say: Do you not hear the birds singing and the stream babbling? And what about your heart beating and those cows that are lowing? Oh, and if you come out here at midday, you’ll hear the dogs chiming in with the Angelus Bell up around the village church. And, hey, if you go on up towards Dunhill Castle you’ll get to hear the swan family.
Yes, the swan family that I thought had flown away are still around and they were making lots of noise as they were gathered together in a huddle.
Since my little encounter with the photographer, I’ve been thinking about Simon and Garfunkel’s, The Sound of Silence, that was such a part of my growing up in the 1960s and 70s. It was central to our early collection of 45s that we played over and over on our basic record player:
The lines of the song that always hit me were these ones:
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
Listening back now, I still feel a profoundness about these words in terms of the huge difficulties that arise in relation to communication in so many ways, especially around war and building peace.
On a much lighter note, the word ‘sound’ is widely used in Irish slang. There’s the saying: ‘Sound as a pound,’ which is used mainly to reassure someone that a person or a machine is fine or unproblematic. In some parts of the country, ‘sound as a pound’ has been abbreviated to: ‘Sound out.’ So, ‘Ah Jimmy is the best guy to advise you. He’s sound out.’
As well as that, you often hear ‘sound’ used as a one word response in the context of underlining the fact that one is happy enough about some arrangement. For example:
Mechanic: I’ll have the car ready for you after lunch.
Customer: Sound. I’ll see you then.
To come back to my photographer ‘friend,’ it seemed quite ironic to me that he saw fit to break the silence, or Wendell Berry’s, ‘the peace of wild things, that he was so obviously enjoying.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.