Sonic Childhood Memories

Ok so I am hoping to only write one hundredth of this post, since I know/suspect pretty much everyone who reads these random rants of mine is (a) sentient and (b) has keen ears…. So I am going to ask you to contribute a sonic memory from your childhood… To start the ball rolling, heres three of mine:



I grew up on a farm (near the Rangitata River mouth, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand) & occasionally I used to potter around in the shed making things… quite what I was making I can’t actually remember, but I do remember the huge old bluegum tree that was behind the shed. This tree was huge, maybe 100 feet tall… And at a certain time of the year it would randomnly drop bluegum nuts from its branches & these nuts would fall from a great height, land on the tin roof of the shed & slowly roll down the angled roof, until it fell off & dropped to the ground. I close my eyes & I can still hear that sound…..



Also farm related; every day after lunch, as my Dad headed back out to work he would walk out of the dining room, down the hall & then he would go over to the barometer attached to the wall & tap it, to see what the weather was likely to be doing in the immediate future. This barometer was like a giant old watch, so tapping it had a lovely glass & just slightly loose metal mechanism sound to it…. hmmm must get me a barometer, I’d bet its more (locally) accurate than the TV weather girl…



Lastly, this one is a smell & sound memory: scratch & sniff! My parents farm backed on to the Rangitata River and when I was young my idea of fun at the weekend was to jump on a motorbike & go for a blast up the riverbed, navigating through gorse & bush, crossing streams and finding my way upstream or down… But one summer I heard a funny/weird story of some dudes growing some kind of huge marijuana plantation in the gorse an hours ride up the river from home. Imagine such madness as local policeman pretended to be fishermen, waiting to catch the stoners; as a teenager I was intrigued as hell. So after the bust goes down me & my motorbike head upstream to go see what the hell they were up to… And after riding around all the trails I know & eventually finding a path into their deviency I ended up crawling through gorse & broom to a beautifully tended but empty strip of soil, recently stripped of 6 foot ganja plants! Now some people consider gorse & broom as weeds but ever since I have considered them to hold some ulterior purpose… And on a sunny day if you are anywhere near a broom bush, you will hear its seed pods exploding…. and you will smell the sweet aroma of gorse flowering…… that memory is just up the river…



So when you think of your childhood, what is the FIRST (or best) sound you remember?


12 Responses to Sonic Childhood Memories

  1. Carl says:

    I remember being really scared of loud noises as a kid. I remember going to an airshow and loving what I saw but just about bawling my eyes out at the explosions etc.

    Not sure what got me out of it. Probably peer pressure.

  2. tani p. says:

    This is an great subject! The earliest sound I can remember is the rusty creak of the swing chains at the local park. When I was a little older I started skateboarding and the roar of the urethane wheels on different types of cement and bricks was pretty characteristic. The different sounds are associated with specific skate spots in my mind. The sharp POP and quick silence after an ollie (a jump) since the wheels were off the ground is another good one.

  3. Dan says:

    Also being a country lad, the sounds of frogs, crickets and cicadas were an early memory, and still today are loaded with “summer holiday” feeling.

    There was also an old-fashioned air raid siren in the village, which was used to summon all the volunteer firemen in case of an incident. It sounded just like the ones you hear in old WWII movies. Could that explain a penchant for Varese?

  4. Every early sound that stays with me is a distant sound.

    Also from the country, I most remember the sound of tires on blacktop starting a mile or so away. My surreal expression is aspirating tires, like a slow continuous inward breath louder and closer until the car is past and the breath goes out & away. This esp. at bedtime when I couldn’t sleep. Hearing and seeing the lights. The closest the road came was roughly 200 feet.

    Farther away than that, back beyond the fields, in the swampy woods behind, there were hog lots with metal grain feeders. A feeder is a big metal cylinder that tapers down to join a round base. That base was a trough with many lids radiating for a hog to nuzzle under and lift to get at the feed. A hog would eat for a bit, then leave letting the metal lid slam down. Roughly speaking the slam is like a snare–there’s short hollow metal hit and a rattle that lasts a little after. Faraway, it’s duller and reflects off the woods.

    And always the general sound occurs whenever a hog leaves a lidded opening. Maybe one leaves and another close by leaves soon after (that slam or the first one gives a nudge). Or a bunch that are feeding get spooked and several lids slam/rattle shut.

    I went to school etc. and hog raising shifted indoors. I can’t remember the last time I heard that sound (prob. 20, 25 years ago) or where’d I could go to hear it again.

    The third distant sound is the roar of vast fans in a grain dryer up the road. Electric fans with blades the size of airplane props drive butane heated air through bins of corn, peanuts and soybeans. It’s a big drone heard in autumn, early winter. More occasional was the sound of grain elevators running.

  5. tim says:

    Ah yes – I love grain silos & remember playing in them when they were empty & relishing the thunderous reverb… and I remember later as a teenager borrowing a friends sampler (a very very early Roland sampler) and stringing to gether four power extention cords & recording a strummed acoustic guitar chord inside there, and then looping it backwards/forwards, so it became like an ocean wave of verb…. I have a few grain silo recordings in my library & whenever I hear them it sends me back there…

  6. The silo ‘verb sampling sounds like fun (esp. in the days of little memory/much looping). Everyone needs more cavernous space to holler in.

  7. greg says:

    i grew up in the sf bay area in berkeley (the east bay). we have a subway called “bart.” the sound of the bart train moving along is such an interesting sound from my childhood. one can hear it from quite a ways away, not because it was super loud, but probably because it was above ground (in some locations) and was so unique that you could identify it so easily. i was back home recently, but did not have much time to try to record it. getting different perspectives would be ideal. i hope that the next time i’m home i can get some good recordings made because i can imagine using it in something sound design wise.

  8. Pingback: poorly controlled » memories of sound

  9. Max says:

    When I was a child my parents went with us to their house in Italy – six weeks every summer. The atmosphere there was completely different to our “normal” surrounding: In Germany we lived in the middle of a town; the house in Italy was on a hill above the sea. The climate was hotter and less rainy, the smells were different, and plants and animals were also of another kind. It was almost a dream-like setting, being there under the hot sun for so long.

    Because of the sun we kept the shutters closed during the day, and sometimes we stayed inside at lunchtime. It was very quiet in the house at this time of the day. But in the middle of every room there were flies circling in the air. It’s the sound of these flies I remember vividly. When I encounter it accidentally nowadays – because the right kind of fly passes by one of my ears, for example – I’m immediately transferred back in this childhood summer dream.

    Of course there are other sounds connected to this place and time. 30 years ago the old Fiat 500 models were abundant on the streets of the towns nearby; their motor had a very distinctive sound unheared today. And there’s the noise of the wind blowing through the pines; a very powerful, roaring noise. The frogs croaking all night in spring, the deafening crickets in the summer woods…

  10. tim says:

    As a small boy I had piano lessons once a week with a lovely teacher who put up with me not practicing & refusing to learn to sight read… But the sound I remember was not the piano – it was two tiny daschund dogs she had that were really yappy whenever anyone opened the gate to walk up the path to her house. Their yapping when I arrived filled me with that ‘here we go again’ feeling… But their yapping when the next student arrived signified imminent freedom!!! I could go back to walking around with a head full of dreams rather than trying to decipher tadpoles scribbled on paper!

  11. Jon says:

    In the early 60’s, my older brother worked at a radio station and brought home a HiFi demo record of Jim Bacchus as Mr. Magoo. I don’t remember the details of the ‘story’ but I was totally sucked in by the sound effects.
    Not long after, my dad bought a small reel to reel tape recorder that we kids were allowed to play with. It had a green glowing level indicator tube on the front that fascinated me. I remember my brother and I were recording the usual seven year old drivel when my mother went by with the vacuum. The air blast from the vacuum hit the mic and faded as she passed. When we played it back it was a rocket blasting off! I have never listened to anything the same way since.

  12. Michael says:

    Lots of sounds associated with my childhood: certain voices, tree frogs, thunder, cars or motorbikes rounding the long curve by our house at night, train horns etc.
    But what really stands out is the first time I was out after a really heavy snowfall. Nature’s anechoic chamber. Probably seven or eight and going out at night with my Dad, likely to help shovel it…. I remeber it as being the first time I noticed how nice it was for my ears to have a rest. Doesn’t happen much now, I live on the wet coast of Canada at the moment, but once in a while we get enough snow to bring it back.

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name instead of you company name or keyword spam.