Secondhand Music – 97.04

Following a reference to “active anguish in a context of flux” (from this book) made on ep #110 of This American Life, Mapping, I was pleased to stumble upon Toby Lester’s Secondhand Music:

I WOKE recently, in the unfamiliar and unfurnished silence of a new apartment, into a hyperawareness of the music around me. Without recourse to radio, tapes, CDs, or television, I suddenly found myself aware of — no, listening to — a sort of secondhand music emanating from the machines and appliances nearby. My alarm clock woke me that morning, as it does every working day, on a distinctly musical note (B natural, to be precise). I shuffled sleepily to the refrigerator, which kept up a stoic hum (B-flat) as I reached into its guts for a frozen bagel. The bagel I subjected to the resolute drone (E) of the microwave, which concluded its efforts with a ding! (the B-flat an octave above the refrigerator hum) just as my teakettle began to whistle (A). Later that morning my subway train pulled me into town with a weary whine (F), and the office elevator deposited me on my floor with a relieved bleep (C-sharp). I entered the code (C) of the security system with a staccato flourish and was at work.

I recognized three main tones in my office that morning, a triad that seemed to be a constant. At the bottom was the deep drone of the heater. Above that was the idling of my computer — a smug electronic purr. And whenever I picked up the phone, a dial tone sang insistently in my ear.

via Secondhand Music – 97.04.

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One response to “Secondhand Music – 97.04”

  1. Bonus! This great Craigslist microwave ad in Cambridge referencing “active anguish in a context of flux” (an amusing read):

    Q) So I heard that piece on “This American Life” a while back about the guy who found that all of his appliances were humming different notes, and they made chords together, and that some of those chords were “happy” and some were “sad,” and he said that his refrigerator and microwave played B-flat and F-sharp, which made a chord that elicited “active anguish in a context of flux,” so will the Microwave of Mysteries ruin my kitchen harmonics?
    A) With its pure B, it’ll feng shui your kitchen into musical alignment!

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