A symphony of city sounds

The sounds of New York City are both harsh and melodious.

Beneath my second-floor office window in SoHo, fire engines and police cars, sirens screaming, attempt to move in streets blocked by traffic.

"Is your building on fire?" a long-distance caller asks me. "Nope," I respond, "this is life in N.Y.C."

On subway platforms, passing trains roar and arriving trains screech as brakes are applied. Waiting passengers on the platform place hands over their ears.

Huge trucks travel on the city's streets. Their blasting horns are more appropriate for the wide-open spaces than the congested streets of a densely populated city.

Garbage trucks grind away early in the morning and late at night.

Street digging is a favorite New York activity. Each day, workers with pneumatic drills fan out across the city to repair water and gas mains and replace telephone and electric cables. It makes for a lot of unpleasant noise.

But not all the sounds of the city are harsh.

From my apartment, located on a side street midway between two busy avenues, I listen to the singing of birds in brownstone gardens.

I enjoy hearing ships' whistles in the harbor, for me a reminder that I live on an island off the North American continent.

Other city sounds: On sidewalks, there are conversations and laughter. In subway stations, Peruvians perform haunting music of the Andes. Fountains bubble in squares and parks.

In the opera houses and concert halls of New York City can be heard in a single week the music of Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Debussy, Wagner, Mozart, Bizet, Rameau, Donizetti, Beethoven, Bach, Copland, Ellington, Stravinsky, Glass, Brahms, Schumann, Franck, Shostakovich, Liszt, Satie, Poulenc, Haydn, Rachmaninoff, Sibelius, Strauss, Britten, Chopin, and Schubert.

The sounds of New York: the worst and best of city life.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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