My mother’s voice and the pierce of Dad’s whistle are what I remember. Singing old Australian bush songs with Dad out in the car, songs that I will teach to my own children decades later. Hearing my kids singing Camptown Races, The Long Long Trail and The Road to Gundagai shows the importance of the continuity of the small things and the passing down of memories from one generation to the next.
School-life was punctuated at either end of the day by the trilling of the school bell and the slamming of desks and doors. Hundreds of voices yelling at fever pitch, the click of the ball against the bat at cricket practice and the squawling mangled sounds of a violin coming from the music room.
There’s the sound from other times and places. The traffic on the main road where I grew up. The chant of the orange seller in the street market in Wanchai, and the beat of the jackhammers on Hong Kong building sites. The silence of a London flat mid-morning when everyone had gone to work, and the only noise was the roar of a jet overhead which somehow compounded the loneliness I felt.
The stillness of the noonday bush on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, with the clack and rasp of insects, a cow bellowing in the reed beds and the drone of a far-off car.
And in later years, the soft cry of my child as she woke from a nightmare, and the click of our little dog’s paws as she comes to sit by the side of my bed in the mornings.
My kids refer to the soundtrack of their lives. From driving around to the Playschool theme and The Wiggles, to Radiohead and the Doves on long car trips and Midnight Oil, on high rotation always. They associate the songs of Ella Fitzgerald, 1960s soul, and Bollywood with my husband and Midnight Oil to me.
Since 1956, with the advent of television, new sounds came into our lives. The introduction to the ABC News, the theme songs to TV shows: Number 96 long languorous sexy intro’ indicating the naughtiness to come; the voice of William Shatner introducing space as the final frontier and the kooky psychedelic Dr. Who
On overseas trips, my children would comment ( and then imitate) the screech of ambulance sirens – asking me why it was different in each country. In a town in southern France my daughter wondered why the bees sounded louder and were bigger than the bees back home? This was after hours of her lying on her stomach in a garden in La Ciotat watching giant bumble bees.
Now in our house, it’s different songs. The click of computer keys, the mobile phone ring tones, the startup theme to Netflix and the loud miaows of our elderly cats. In the mornings, it’s the chit-chat of the group of Vietnamese walkers who go past our place at 630 on the dot, the bounce of the basketball as the neighbour’s kids head to school, and the howling of a dog as it realises it’s been left alone for another day.
Our soundtracks may change over the years and each of our “playlists” is uniquely ours-to cherish, to laugh at (did I ever really love that song by the Bay City Rollers or did that sound of that boy’s voice really make my heart beat faster?) and to sometimes make us cry.
What are the soundtracks of your lives?