Most of the time, we easily identify a sound and know what has caused it. This proves not to be, however, unfailingly the case.
Like many who are musicians or simply love listening to music if not playing it themselves, I began building a record collection from an early age. When not engaged in practicing or involved in activities away from home, I have always felt more content and inspired if I could surround myself with the infinite varieties of sound produced by my betters —although I do confess to needing more silence in recent years. The collection grew as I discovered different artists, contrasting versions of one composition, musical literature as yet unknown to me, and on and on. Every spare cent that was not ear-marked for my instrument fund went towards buying records. There were vast stores near my home, and later, close to the locations I moved to for further studies and orchestra jobs, filled to overflowing with tempting albums that usually featured edifying jacket notes (in a comfortable, legible typeface) and very often stunning cover art, admirable in its own right and capable of wearing down the last remaining bit of resistance towards the perceived necessity of acquisition.
Where is that strange sound coming from, and whatever is it?
Having managed to come into possession of several hundred long-playing albums (many of them difficult to find and cherished for their unique material), I wanted no part of compact disks when they were first introduced. Of course I should have had some foresight about what would eventually happen, but at that time I wished to stick with the recordings I had amassed and had no idea that, in the not-too-distant future, nearly every fragment of recorded sound known to man would be transferred to the much better-wearing cd format.
When I finally realized what was going on, I still pretended not to know for as long as I could, hoping to keep myself from feeling the need to start buying cds. Then at last, one fine day during a visit to New York, I ventured — not without trepidation — into a huge branch of the now long-defunct Tower Records and attempted to get my bearings. What on earth was that odd, soft clicking sound I heard, and where was I getting an overwhelming sense of happy nostalgia from? Ah. I saw that everywhere in the store, people were flipping through deep rows of disks standing upright like dominoes, causing a very particular click each time a disk hit the one in front or behind. And, why was this so pleasing to my ears, so familiar and hypnotic? It took me a moment to realize it sounded exactly like the games of Mahjong that had comprised such sweet lullabies nearly once a week all through my childhood. From upstairs in my bed, I would hear my mother and three or four of her lady friends pushing little tiles around on a card table, clicking away in the distance as I floated off to dreamland.