Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Vacuum Cleaner Radio

I'm weird, I've always had a thing for the noise of a vacuum cleaner. The sound of a vacuum cleaner motor running, the vvvvmmmmmm, hmmmmmmmmm as it sweeps back and forth across the carpet... it just sends a chill up my spine.

When I was a very young kid, I remember I was afraid of the vacuum cleaner. So my dad would sing to me while my mom was vacuuming. I eventually came to like the sound of a vacuum cleaner. It does something to me, it's hard to put it into words. It's like a mug of hot chocolate, it's like being curled up beneath a warm blanket on the davenport on a cold winter night while the winds blow and howl in the dark outside.

I know this is out of the ordinary. But then, in a lot ways I seem to be out of the ordinary, you know? I'm weird.

Vvvvvmmmmmmmm, hmmmmmmmm, vvvmmmmmmm, brrrrrrap! That vacuum cleaner noise, it's not like the sound— as if of music from another room— that I sometimes hear in the humming and thrumming of a fan motor. That's more quaint and curious and distant. The noise of a vacuum cleaner is more like tingling up my spine and in the nape of my neck. The far music in a fan motor is soft pastel; the vacuum cleaner noise is all sharp needles of Jack Frost on a January morning.

A vacuum cleaner strikes me more like the way I'm moved by listening to radio voices through the crackly static, from Denver and from Boston and from Nashville and from Calgary and from San Antone. Tuning up and down the radio dial on a cold winter night, fishing those voices out of the ether, has always felt to me like being in touch with some alternate dimension of reality. The noise of a vacuum cleaner affects me much like that.

It's hard to find the words. I think we're treading here on the march realms of synaesthesia.

And it should come to you as no surprise that I still own that old vacuum cleaner from my childhood. It's a Eureka upright. It's older than I am, early 1950s vintage. Its maroon paint is chipped and scratched, but it still runs just fine. And it makes, you know, that magical vacuum cleaner noise, vvvvmmmmmmm, hmmmmmmmmmmm...

Which brings us to what I call "vacuum cleaner radio." On the Internet I've stumbled across an online radio station called Darkdrone Radio. (You may have to log in to Live365 to listen, I long since bookmarked it from my free Live365 account.) I'm too dense about music to know just what kind of music is being played on Darkdrone Radio: "the world's best drone, world, experimental, and ambient music," it says.

Well, to me that doesn't mean jack. All I know is, a lot of what they play on "Darkdrone Radio" sounds to me wonderfully like the noise of a vacuum cleaner. I call it "vacuum cleaner music."

They play something of a variety of music. But a lot of it sounds only half a step above sheer noise. Imagine the droning buzz of a World War II airplane engine. Imagine the background murmur of the in-between spots on a radio dial, late at night. Imagine white noise almost drowning out the faint background chanting of a distant medicine man. Imagine mechanical factory clank over the ringing and clicking of long-distance phone relays. Imagine soft repetitive brass-cymbal clanging, playing counterpoint to the buzzing thrum of a motor's noise. The wowing and the mumming of vaguely clashing noises, and it goes on and on with only the most subtle of variation, almost all background and hardly any foreground.

Like the noise of a vacuum cleaner. And it has much the same effect on me. "Vacuum cleaner music." Darkdrone Radio. Like I say, I'm weird...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

It scares me that I understand :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 6:03:00 PM  

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