Oh, the bells, bells, bells!

April 18, 2012

I wonder what role our awareness and subconscious plays in our listening to and hearing of specific sounds? I don’t mean listening actively for a sound, but rather bringing it to the forefront of your consciousness and considering it, and then letting it recede back into memory – only to notice it more so than ever before when next exposed to it.  I wonder this, because early yesterday afternoon I had a brief conversation with a friend about the ubiquitous Cornell chimes and their purpose (or frivolity, as she thought).  I mentioned that I do in fact use them to tell the time; for example, I know that if I hear them from our apartment I can be positive that I am running late for class. However this only happens rarely, and not due to my punctuality but rather the difficulty in hearing the chimes from a substantial distance away.  I often simply do not hear the chimes.  But that evening, I heard them strike every quarter-hour interval for several hours, although I had returned home and normally do not notice the chimes so regularly.  Each time, it occurred to me that I was hearing the bell tower, and I noted to myself how odd it was that I had just discussed how infrequently I hear it.  Even more bizarre, the chimes actually woke me up this morning – something that has never happened before.  They are not loud at all, but I have no doubt that they were what brought me out of sleep today. My first thought upon waking up was that I was noticing them yet again.  I have come to the conclusion that since I had been thinking about the sound of the bells prior to hearing them so many times, I was more attuned to them when I first was exposed to them again. This awakened my recent focus on the sound, and I consciously noticed it again.  Then, I allowed it to return to the back of my mind, but 15 minutes later the same cycle repeated, each time impressing upon my subconscious the prevalence of this sound.  Finally, when my sleeping mind heard the chimes this morning, it took notice of what had been a very common sound the day before and I awoke to become conscious of it yet again.   However, of course this is simply anecdotal evidence and my own musings – I would like to learn more about how we consciously and subconsciously filter through the many sounds we may hear at any given moment and select the most relevant or common ones to examine consciously.

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