Sticky Soundscape: Seattle's Hottest Day
June 28, 2021 108°F Melting Sonic World
The heat-soaked soundscape neglected everyone. It was the hottest day Seattle had seen. I wanted to hear the heat in the community garden located in the heart of downtown Seattle. According to the National Weather Service, the city had reached 108 degrees just after 6 p.m.
I situated my equipment then leaned into one of the stout stone walls surrounding the garden’s patch of grass, not more than 20 square meters, where the rabbits munched on bright green blades. I wanted to hear their chewing but couldn’t; neither could my equipment, a rudimentary setup.
Bees buzzed in the lavender behind me, a few honeybees within a throng of bumblebees. I expected nature to meet the sultry evening with whispers, anticipating nothing beyond the rabbits and bees. The city was exhausted; no human voices in the vicinity although anthropophony managed to penetrate the stillness. It was always there.
Then, they appeared from nowhere and began their acoustic aerial antics. Selasphorus rufus, the feisty rufous hummingbirds were in charge of the soundscape, ignoring the sultriness of the space. They outcompeted the cargo plane flying over Elliott Bay, the train signal on Alaskan Way, and the drone of the commercial buildings' air conditioning systems backing up to the garden on Western Avenue struggling to understand why they had been pressed into service in a city that rarely required them.
The wind in my microphone seemed to buoy the minute creatures as they frolicked in the heat; I switched off my equipment with sweaty palms and continued to listen to the hummingbirds’ guidance through the balmy night.