[Image: “Pass the Mic” by Sean Galbraith].
The company Airborne Sound has a near-infinite website on which you can listen to royalty-free sound effects for everyday scenarios like dishwashers, traffic noise, office ambiance, overhead helicopters, vacuum cleaners, elevator shafts, construction sites, and more.
The extreme specificity with which many of these sounds are cataloged—”Small metal military tin, empty, closing concisely,” for instance, versus “Small metal military tin, empty, closing quickly and smartly,” or even the encyclopedic varieties of sounds created by someone eating ice—often outdoes Borges.
“Magazine dropping and picking up from a table in a series in an indifferent manner.” “Rain in the city nasal and heavy and constant with some thunder.” “Room tone in a New York apartment on the tenth floor with window open and helicopters departing and traffic and AC.” “Room tone in a large machine shop with fluorescent buzz and pipe hiss in a loop.” “Construction site with junk sliding down a chute“—in case you like the sound of sliding your junk down a chute. “A homeless guy digs in a garbage bin with rain”—which apparently consists of “Alley, Rain, Homeless Guy.” There are even hospital sounds: “Room tone in a radiology clinic with nurses and x-rays.” “Crowd in New York City at Bellevue hospital lobby passing with voices.”
But my original purpose in mentioning this was for the company’s domestic sound effects, filed under Household. Why have a housemate when you can simply listen to endless loops of air-conditioning units, refrigerator hum, distant TV voices, pet sounds, keyboard clacking, footsteps over hardwood floors, and more? The specially curated Household Collection has it all (almost), including someone “handling a wallet,” “peeling a rubber glove off,” and “opening a bedroom door.” There’s also Household Collection 2.
Perhaps this could even offer a glimpse of some emerging new form of spatio-acoustic therapy: prescription sound effects for people dealing with loss or depression.
Or download the Kitchen Collection, including its own part 2, and make it sound like someone is cooking dinner in the background as you read a novel, home alone on a Saturday night, disappearing into a world of sonically reinforced self-isolation.
You can soundtrack your next dinner party with the sounds of another dinner party. You can work out to the sound of farm animals, cruise the streets of Los Angeles listening to someone clipping their toe nails, fall asleep to the relaxing tones of “flesh moves.”