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Listen only for Footsteps

Recipe for Listening #1

Go for a walk in a populated area, and listen only for footsteps. Try to walk softly so you are not just listening to your own footsteps. For sonic variety, walk through more and less trafficked areas.

Things to remember:

Non-human animals have feet that step too. Crow talons and dog toenails are sonic delights. You know you're listening well if you hear a cat's footsteps.

Permissions granted:

If you end up listening to your own footsteps, that's okay. Maybe you can notice how they change, depending on your speed, what kind of surface you're walking on, how fresh or tired you feel, and whether you're remembering to step lightly or not.

wishes and imaginings:

If only trees walked. What amazing creaks and groans their branches would make amidst a wild rhythmic rustle of leaves. And, oh, the scraping and thudding sound of their roots hitting the earth. In one of my dreams recently, a great, dark cedar tree in the distance suddenly pulled itself out from its spot, and walked out of the area in great lumbering yet nimble strides. I worried that the birds might never find their nests again.

Ears grabbing at details:

As your attention hones in on the small sounds of footsteps in the wash of the great sounds of traffic, construction, wind, rain and other forces of natural and human ingenuity, other small sounds may also rise to your attention. In your earnestness to hear a passerby's footsteps, you may find that they are actually stepping lightly in rubber soled shoes so that all you can hear from them are the rustling sounds of their clothes.

Potential findings:

Many children and elderly people shuffle rather than step. High heeled shoes tend to sound rushed and commanding. Platform shoes tend to be less rushed, but just as commanding (if not more). A cane changes and usually slows the rhythmic experience, but tends to maintain the two-beat pulse. Crutches often switch the stepping pattern from duple to triple meter - from march to waltz, in layman's terms. No one ever seems to leave behind some kind of steady rhythm unless they're careening-around-drunk. If you're lucky, you'll get to hear the woman using three field hockey sticks duct taped together as a cane - a reticent, dull thud. Or maybe you'll hear something even more mysterious.

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