I live in a suburb of North Jersey, so with minimal traffic, the trip to school takes about 1.5 hours each way. In the morning, a parent drives me to the train station and I get on the PATH train. To go home, I do the opposite. I decided to do the derive in the morning after getting off the train for time efficiency and ended up recording video from the commute as well, which was an interesting contrast to the actual derive.
Sound was relatively mild through New Jersey. My house was silent. Very few cars on the road until we got to the highway, and even there any noise was just normal car noises: the car engine running, wheels on concrete, artificial wind generated by fast vehicles. The Harrison station was also relatively quiet. I got up the stairs to the platform right after a train left, so there was nothing but the sunrise (unremarkably pretty) and the wind making my fingers freeze (foreshadowing for later… ).
PATH trains look newer than most of the NYC trains in that the floors look bright and clean, the seats colored a polished electric blue, the lights shine florescent, and all the train cars allow lots of space for leg room and for cramming more people inside. They are also less screechy than NYC trains. It is easy to fall asleep in there.
I was supposed to start my derive in Midtown. I actually started at 33rd Street, where I got off the train, because I thought that was part of Midtown. The geography of the city is a confusing thing.
The train conductor told us to “Have a wonderful day.” The day was not “wonderful,” as it was 7:33 am and 28 degrees Fahrenheit outside. My fingers almost froze off. I was glad to have glasses that protected my eyeballs from the weather-warning-worthy wind.
My route was mostly determined my which pedestrian stoplights said walk. I considered following sources of noise, but the area was so loud already that I could not pinpoint a specific direction of louder noise, and I didn’t really have the energy to decide where to go, so my route was a straight line with some deviance.
Almost all the sound came from vehicles on the road. Engines, wheels, and exhaust pipes overwhelmed anything else happening there in a sonic sense; I had to listen very carefully to hear sounds related to people or anything else. There wasn’t even any honking of horns – just the starting and stopping of cars, buses, and trucks on streets with the occasional opening and closing of bus doors blanketed by the artificial wind generated by the speed of vehicles.
I had to stop walking to rest a few times on the derive on account of my bad leg. On these stops, I heard the rustling of plastic bags in the hands of passerby, the harsh fluttering of flags in the wind, the jingling of backpack zippers, and the overly strong gusts of wind that morning.
The transportation noises grew in intensity and frequency as the street numbers rose. By 42nd Street, I had to cover my ears from the loudness and my eyes from the super vibrant sun. This was where the business-looking people wearing black suits with shiny loafers and glossy briefcases spoke on Bluetooths on their ways to work. Up until here, there had been zero human speech. I heard one other conversation – a high school girl talking into her earbud microphone, calling someone the r-slur.
I got on the train to Union Square from here. All subways are loud, but I hate the Union Square subway station the most. The first time I went there I had a brain shutdown and could not function for 20 minutes because of the noise. It is a screechy, high pitched hell at 100 times the power of any other subway station. I can put video here next week.
Sound pollution is a legitimate issue inadvertently harming life around the world. It is most severe in cities, which have high population densities per square foot or meter; ironically, it is caused by having these high population densities per square foot or meter.
Excessive environmental noise can cause or aggravate health – one can develop hearing loss from trains, for example. Tinnitus is a common condition caused by too much sound as well. Additionally, bothersome noise can induce feelings of annoyance and irritability which can negatively impact mental health.
The derive helped me realize that sound pollution in largely office work areas can be somewhat avoided by making really tall buildings, but the workers close to the ground have no solution. In residential areas, there is no escape from noise pollution at all beyond playing music really loudly, thus creating more noise and elevating the problem.
Since most of the noise came from transportation that was there mainly in order to make money (cars, trucks), the sound in the game should come from those kinds of institutions. I’m not sure how to make that.
BUILDING URBAN SPACES
I think building urban spaces means building as a means for growth, which people in power usually interpret as economic growth, which leads to growth in populace by migration. They design cities in ways best to make money and to make more money as a result; the actual people who live there are afterthoughts who sometimes, they don’t even think about.
Sound is one of the afterthoughts that comes from city officials and designers not caring about the common folk. It’s a class issue exacerbated by rapid, constant growth.
For the game, we could have a city built with simple shapes similar to the wooden blocks that children play with that emit waves of dissonant sound, for example 40 bad recordings of the 21st Century Fox theme song playing at the same time, that blot out the whole screen both visually and audibly, and the player can clear the screen by rearranging the blocks/parts of the city until the landscape becomes a suburb, in which case the game is still pretty loud and hard to see, and then a rural area, when the player can finally see the ground and sky and can hear better. They could also just knock down all the blocks and mess them around, and that would have the same effect – destroying institutions created by capitalism.