A day of SoundCulture (continued)
An encounter with Ann Wettrich's "Aviary Commute"
As I'm staying near the bus line, I've decided to meet the bus part way
into its route. The bus arrives, and I want to make sure its the right one.
Before I get on, I ask the driver, "Are there a bunch of birds on
I notice a man several seats behind the driver waving at me, motioning for
me to be quiet and not give away the secret. This is interesting, because
I am not aware that there is a secret. I get on and move toward the back,
where I find a seat near some people I recognize from other SoundCulture
events. (I must be in the right place...)
A few minutes later as we make our way through the city toward the Golden
Gate Bridge, tape players begin to appear from various hidden locations
- inside a toolbox, a pocket, a picnic basket, a backpack. Birds start to
make appearances. A loon is calling up near the front. A meadowlark, a magpie.
A flock of geese appear to my right, sparrows across the aisle, blue night
herons to my left! By the time we start across the bridge, a veritable cacophony
of aviary vocalizations fills the bus.
Responses to the sound amongst the bus riders are mixed.
The driver seems to be amongst the dissenting bunch. His amplified voice
descends over the bus like a dioxin-based defoliant. "All Right! Please
keep it down now...(pause) I'll ask one more time, please keep the noise
down." When the noise does not cease, he comes back over the PA, "I'll
tell you one more time: It's very easy for me to pull over and start handing
out transfers! (pause) I get paid by the hour." Presumably, he is
telling us this to make us aware that he'll gladly spend the time to remove
us all individually from the bus.
After some discussion, we decide that everyone will stay on the bus, leaving
their tape players turned off until we're within one stop of our destination.
We pull into the San Raphael station, aviary cacophony back in full-swing.
Departing the bus, a couple of women discuss how they like the sounds, and
one man comments, "Those people should be shot, along with the birds!"
The migration continues up main street, stopping in a thrift store along
the way. The three women working in the thrift store seem delighted to have
this large group of bird-sound toting people coming in. They tell bird stories.
One woman used to live in a house with birds in the attic. "I hate
them! They used to fly in my hair!" We asked her, "What kind
of birds were they?" "I don't know - flying birds!"