Location: Hemingway’s Restaurant – Patio
Address: 142 Cumberland Street
Closest Intersection: Avenue and Cumberland
Date of Observation: Saturday, September 21st, 2013
Time of Observation: 10:00pm-10:45pm
Note: There seems to be a little bit of ambiguity between what constitutes a human sound and a technological sound, eg. the zipper of a bag – the bag is a technology but the sound comes from human action. In such cases, sounds that are created by humans directly touching and interacting with technology have been identified as human; sounds that are created by technology interacting with technology, eg. silverware on plates versus pulling opening a zipper, have been identified as technological sounds.
I purposefully chose to sit on the patio to blend two different environments: the inside of the restaurant which is a contained space, and the outdoor exposure to Downtown Toronto. Physically, there are walls and low ceilings in the restaurant where sound can bounce off, echo, and amplify. There are also many more people in this space proportional to its size than there are compared to the less restricted outdoors. The outdoor patio had no such physical barriers other than the protective glass that wraps the patio as seen in the photo above. There are fewer people that are not squished into the confinement of the restaurant, and there are fewer structures that would keep sound in.
There was a plethora of different sounds of all pitches, volumes, frequency, and textures (timbre). There are sounds with high pitch and high volume that are unique, and only occurred once for a split-second like a sneeze. The squeaking of shoes shared those qualities but was a repetitive sound of short duration. Sounds of cutlery scratching were also high pitched and high volume but repeatedly lasted much longer in duration. Oppositely, there were continuous sounds that were low in pitch with medium volume like the rumbling of the heater, or even lower in pitch, the steady stream of the bass from the music. These sounds were long in duration. There were other low pitched, quieter sounds of shorter duration like the gravelly, breathy sound of someone clearing their throat. These are only a few of the sounds that compose the soundscape. In the middle of two very different environments, the patio of Hemingway’s made for a particularly interesting, at times overwhelming study of soundscape.
The soundscape of the patio of Hemingway’s Restaurant is what Schafer would describe as “lo-fi”, since the volume of the ambient noise is high and even loud, high-pitched, distinct sounds get quickly washed away in the oncoming waves of sound. This is true particularly of the inside; by comparison, the outside environment is much quieter and produces fewer sounds altogether, and fewer high pitched sounds in particular. That is to say that the sound of the inside environment is domineering whereas the outside is not. But the patio, being in between the two environments, is susceptible to the loud, sometimes harsh sounds of the inside that bleed outwards.
This tension between the inside and outside is demonstrated in the range of indoor sounds and outdoor sounds, a few of which are quite distinct to their respectful environment.
Notice that the indoor sounds I describe, such as cutlery scratching, plates setting down, and chairs scratching and sliding on the concrete floors, all of which are considerably high pitched, loud, and in particular, frequent and repetitive, specifically speak to the theme of a restaurant. This is also supported by the choral, loud singing of happy birthday which typically happens in such a setting. The loud, constant music, the high pitched sounds of glasses clinking, and the low pitched, airy pop of a cork being pulled from a bottle, are meaningful in that they signify a location that serves alcohol. The clinking of glasses, which in particular can be identified as wine glasses because of their extremely high pitch and slight resonance, and corks popping is clearly unique to an environment that includes alcohol. These sounds speak to the setting of a bar with food and drink, an indoor setting. The loud sounds of people talking and laughing, of a full range of pitches and varying in duration, is also identifiable as a characteristic of such a venue. The sounds of cutlery and drinking may not in themselves be distinct enough as a soundmark of a bar, and neither would be the sounds of people chatting and laughing. However together, the complex combination of sounds of chatter, laughter, glasses, and cutlery, may together be considered a soundmark, as such sounds are characteristic of a restaurant and bar. In other words, this combination of sounds identifies the environment as a restaurant and bar. Be mindful that this may not necessarily be a soundmark for Hemingway’s in particular because these sounds are constitutive of many other similar venues. But in a broader scope, they can definitely be considered a soundmark for the active night-time activity of the bar.
Parts of the outdoor portion of the soundscape included the low, gruff sound of a dog barking – distinctly outdoors because the sound came from a different direction than the music and the other bar sounds; the steady hum car engine idling; and most distinctly of the outdoors, the high pitched rush of a passing gust of wind since there is no natural wind that makes such a sound coming from indoors. These are sure audio signals of an outdoor environment. The loud, obnoxious, piercingly high pitched wailing of an urgently passing ambulance is also part of the soundscape and is clearly external to the restaurant. This sound in particular is unique to urban environments. Sounds of people chatting on the street were also heard. These sounds were much quieter, but still audible, and seemed to be lower in pitch, making the distinction between the high energy chatter of the people drinking and socializing inside the restaurant, and the calmer, more mellow sounds of people strolling past outside. The sounds of people talking on the street were also mobile, which is inferred from the fact that the sounds rose and fell over time in volume, and the direction the sound came from also changed. The sounds of cars, ambulances, dogs barking, and humans talking calmly on the street as they walk by create an urban soundscape, and together can be considered a soundmark of the populated city. It might be interesting to note that the lack of more car sounds would denote that the street was not as busy in terms of traffic, and perhaps even the time of day since the streets are less bustling at night.
It is possible to argue that these sounds could be heard from the outside even when one is inside because they are loud enough, eg. the wailing ambulance can be heard even from indoors. To that, my response is that if the sounds are audible, they are unequivocally part of the soundscape, even if the listener was inside the bar and not on the patio. Such urban sounds create the context that they are in the city nonetheless, and should still be considered significant to the soundscape.
Furthermore, I am careful to note that these outdoor sounds were quite loud and distinct; the clarity and presence of these sounds shows that the listener is directly exposed to the urban space in which these sounds are found. By this I mean to make clear that there is a difference if the listener is inside the bar or on the patio, because only on the patio can some of these sounds be distinctly heard (going back into the bar the outdoor sounds became muffled and it was a different auditory experience that is not relevant to my observation) – the recognition of these sounds are particular to the soundscape of the patio setting. These urban sounds are important to understanding the physical context and location of the restaurant itself, and also important to understanding that the space is outdoors and not devoid of natural sounds like wind and animals. Therefore, the mixture of such indoor and outdoor sounds, the combination of the restaurant and bar sounds with the urban city sounds, is therefore constituent of Al fresco dining in particular.
To reiterate clearly, I would definitely consider the combination of sounds from the restaurant and from the street to be soundmarks of restaurants and bars, specifically outdoor dining that is exposed to both, creating a unique soundscape. However, I would not say that these soundmarks are unique specifically to Hemingway’s Restaurant, because other restaurant and bars of the same nature and in similar urban areas, particularly in Downtown Toronto (where such bars are common), are also immersed in similar soundscapes. The place where these sounds were heard are meaningful to the soundscape, and meaningful to contextualizing the environment as the patio of a restaurant and bar in Downtown Toronto, but perhaps cannot be considered meaningful to the point that these sounds would clearly identify Hemingway’s Restaurant specifically.
All the sounds that are described above and below, surround the keynote sound, which is the reasonably loud rumbling and whirring of the heater that stretches the length of the patio along the outside wall of the venue. This is the primary, most continuous and constantly present sound that provides the backdrop for the entire soundscape. The rumbling of the heater is low pitched, though this pitch sometimes changes slightly up and down; it is still constant. Because of the reasonably high volume, this sound is always a dominant part of the soundscape, and it’s low bass tone contrasts the many high pitched sounds (such as cutlery and laughter) that layer on top of it, providing balance to the soundscape. Occasionally there are some high pitched sounds from the heater as well, that are sounds of electrical crackling, all short in duration and appearing sporadically. It was not a common sound and did not take away from the consistency of the rumble.
Also, the heater is distinctly part of the architecture of the patio, there is no heater inside. Therefore the sound of the heater is constitutive of the patio setting specifically. It is unique to the blended indoor/outdoor setting of the restaurant. The sound of the heater running also provides further context of the coming winter, since the heater is not active in the summer months. In this way, besides being the keynote sound, we can also consider the low, comfortable grumbling of the heater to be a soundmark of the restaurant that denotes not only the location, but the time of year as well, giving further context and information through auditory signals.
The unique combination of the indoor environment of a restaurant and bar and the outdoor urban environment of Downtown Toronto is blended in Hemingway’s Restaurant’s Al fresco dining patio. Here, the soundscape is the composition of two separate but adjacent environments that mesh together, creating an orchestra of sound particular to the patio setting, half indoors, half outdoors. The sounds individually may not necessarily be unique, but together, they signify this particular environment. The sounds are definitely meaningful because even though there may be similar soundscapes that exist in other bars in Downtown Toronto, the setting that I have described, “the patio of a bar in Downtown Toronto at 10pm on a Saturday night” is quite specific, and this soundscape observation would be different if any of those details changed. Therefore, I would say that this soundscape may not be entirely original, especially because exposure to the outdoor soundscape means that those outdoor sounds are also parts of other soundscapes as well. However, the context of this soundscape is very specific, and thus the sounds that make up the soundscape must be considered as being particular as well, less so when the sounds are treated individually, but together they compose a greater, complex soundscape. It is when these sounds are united to make up that soundscape that they become unique and meaningful.
List & analysis of sounds:
Dog barking – unique - heard low pitch, throaty, multiple barks. Rumbling vibrato from the growling. Loud and almost no pauses in between barks, sounded urgent and harsh. Loud but the sound was distant and muffled by the other sounds. Lasted several seconds, then stopped.
Gust of wind – unique - Sound of high-pitched whistling that rose and fell as it passed. The sound moved and was carried, heard it come from behind me and left ahead of me. It was brief, not more than 3 seconds but it was loud and slightly piercing as it passed through.
People talking, chatter – continuous - constant buzz of people talking, steady flow of unintelligible words but with a range of changing tones and pitches that denotes the rise and fall of speaking, and the energy of people’s excitement. Higher sounds were louder and more energetic, often led to other types of sounds like yelling and laughter. Lower pitched sounds were calmer. Volume was typically quite loud, being outside muffled some of the sound coming from inside but still very loud. Typically warm sounding, happy and welcoming, the sound was bright and energetic.
These were the sounds of people talking inside. There were also sounds of people speaking from the outside on the street level. These sounds were much quieter, lower in pitch and volume, and lasted usually for only a few seconds in duration. The volume rose and fell as people drew nearer and then walked further away. Sounds of this kind were less frequent but still repetitive, signifying that many people were walking by and the area is quite populated.
English – More intelligible because I speak English. Change in pitch from sentences and expression but otherwise relatively monotonous, unlike Spanish. Spoken slower, high in volume as dominant language in the environment. Sounds of English all around me, almost overwhelming. Started to stop hearing words as words but rather as sounds. By focussing on the sounds I was able to detach meaning and the language became overwhelming because of inability to process that many sounds, loud and in such high volume.
Spanish – Less intelligible because I don’t speak Spanish, but language was recognizable by the speed at which it was spoken, the tendency for dramatic rising and falling in pitch, and many phrases or words that are particularly high-pitched. These sounds were not as loud and only came from one corner table that was nearby. Sounded a bit brassy because it was so quick and frequently high-pitched.
Happy birthday singing – unique - Loud, booming wall of sound coming from inside. Many voices of different pitches and vocal ranges singing in unison. Very bright sound, warm, happy. Sounds lasted for a short duration, around 20 seconds.
Laughter – repetitive - different sounds of laughter came from different areas. Some were loud, full-sounding, bellowing, low-pitched laughs accompanied by clapping or banging of furniture; this might be considered a compound sound that are linked together in the social environment. High energy, boisterous. Other kinds of laughter were higher-pitched, less loud, softer sounding but still bright. There were single outburst laughs and longer drawn out series’ of laughter. Every so often the sound of laughter came from a different section.
Whistling – unique - started high pitched and fell lower, single instance together with the happy birthday song. Sounded airy and breathy, different from the sound of wind because the pitch was controlled and declined steadily. Lasted only a few seconds, medium volume. Also accompanied by clapping.
Clapping – repetitive - two different kinds of clapping sounds. The first was occasional and accompanied by laughter or cheering. High-ish pitched with short duration, single to several claps but no more. Quieter sounding and isolated. Second kind of clap was with the happy birthday song with the sounds of cheering and whistling, many people clapping in unison, extremely loud, repetitive clapping of different pitches. Some clapping was slower and lower pitched, other clapping was higher in frequency, higher pitched, and higher volume. This kind of clapping in particular was a single incident. The sound first started from the centre table and then moved and expanded into the other tables, so volume gradually increased over a few seconds.
Cheering – repetitive - several different instances of cheering but similar sounding across the board. Loud, exuberant and vibrant sounding. Very warm, sudden rush of energy. High-pitched yelling usually for an extended duration with multiple voices of different pitch all chiming in. Often accompanied by clinking of glasses. A mess of sounds because there are many but at the same time the individual sounds are quite clear because they are short bursts of phrases and very loud. Notice that even though much cheering is from watching sports, the television is not part of the soundscape because it cannot be heard, only watched.
Cough – unique - single instance, short duration, instantaneous, loud and sudden. Low in pitch, dry and airy sounding. Followed by sound of throat clearing.
Throat clearing – unique - longer duration than the cough, several seconds composed of a series of separate sounds but occurred in quick succession. These sounds were low in pitch, gravelly, breathy, and muddy sounding. Sounded dark and heavy. Quieter than the initial cough.
Sneeze – unique - high pitched, instantaneous, single instance. Wet sounding with layers and some resonance. Relatively loud, isolated sound.
Footsteps: flat surface – repetitive - frequent, mobile sound. A series of sounds short in duration, light and quiet but still audible. Medium pitch, each footstep sound was quick and abrupt but followed in succession to make the sound mobile.
Footsteps: wooden stairs – repetitive - louder and more clear than compared to footsteps on flat surface. The sound was also mobile but moved vertically up the stairs rather than laterally across the floor. Wooden stairs had hollow space underneath, identified by the loud, airy, echoey sound of each footstep that is significantly lower in pitch. Each footstep sounded much heavier and resonated more than footstep sounds on flat concrete or carpet.
High heeled footsteps – unique - mobile sound, high pitched footstep sounds in succession. Each step clicked loudly against concrete floor. Bright sounding but heavy, each step sounded weighted. The sound seemed to have strength granted by loud volume and quick, rhythmic succession.
Shoes squeaking – repetitive - high pitched, frequent but isolated instances. Each sound is short in duration, half a second and naturally accompanies the sound of footsteps. Only happens occasionally. Clear sounding and relatively loud, however quite frequent and can be difficult to notice because it is sporadic and each sound is so short-lived.
Banging on glass – unique - accompanied laughter, loud banging on glass. Heavy sounding and resonant. Low in pitch which suggests the human contact was with flesh and not a pointed bone which would have been higher pitched. This sound was heard only in one instance, but there was a succession of multiple bangs over a short duration, several seconds.
Heater – continuous - low pitched rumbling, sometimes slight changes in pitch but more or less constant. Medium volume, quite noticeable as part of the soundscape. Constant, heavy, metallic sounding hum. Occasional electrical crackling that is also medium volume, high-pitched, short in duration. The sound of the heater underlies the rest of the other sounds and is consistent in volume and therefore presence.
Music – continuous - loud, deep, steady stream of bass. Sometimes varies in pitch slightly, volume also rises and lowers sporadically, but become a dominant sound in the soundscape when volume is high and bass is incredibly low in pitch. Bass has a strong resonance with an extremely heavy sound. It is so powerful that the bassline dominates other inaudible parts of the song; other parts of the music are significantly quieter by comparison. Less consistent because volume sometimes fades to the point that no music can be heard from the patio.
Cork popping – unique - loud and short in duration, this is an airy, clear, rounded sound, relatively low pitched. This sound was not common enough to be considered repetitive, but it was heard on three separated incidents. Across these instances, the qualities of the sounds were consistent.
Glasses clinking – repetitive - very high pitched ringing sound, light, bright, and elated, vibration resonated for a short few seconds. This sound was rather common as there were many people clinking glasses in cheers and toasts. The high pitch made this sound distinct and noticeable even from a distance where other sounds were not audible.
Cutlery scratching – repetitive - high pitched but not isolated sounds, the clinking and clattering of cutlery was more drawn out and was made of several different sounds to the point that it could almost be considered a continuous sound – scratching of knives on plates that made a high pitched rubbing sound on the ceramic. Individual high pitched but momentary clinks strung together as people set their cutlery down, picked it up, and prodded at their plates with forks. This sound should be best understood as an array of clattering – each individual sound is quite similar but in their volume and succession, becomes a loud orchestra of clattering. This was heard all across the environment.
Plates setting down – repetitive - a different, heavier, less bright kind of clattering as compared to the cutlery. The setting down of plates was a more weighted, deeper sound in significantly lower pitch and much shorter duration. This sound was also less frequent than the clattering of cutlery. Because this was more infrequent and shorter in length, this sound seemed quieter. This is also because the cutlery was more noticeable being higher pitched, and was drawn out over a longer period.
Sound of water and washing – repetitive - this was the steady, strong shushing of water running from a tap. It was relatively high in pitch. The pitch was consistent and the sound was focused and clear. The sound would be audible for a significant duration, up to minutes, but then it would stop and start again minutes later. Together with the sound of this water was some clattering of silverware. I did not hear a difference in the pitch of the water when it hit silverware, but I did notice short moments when the pitch of the water dropped lower and there was some bubbling heard, presumably making contact with other water rather than a solid surface.
Door opening and closing – repetitive - the door to the patio was never fully open or closed, but it swung as people walked through and the hinges creaked. The creaking was a slow sound, varying in pitch that was typically high but would sometimes shift up and down slightly, and was a little bit piercing. This sound was quiet but noticeable because of its high pitch and awkward, uncomfortable texture, and was often accompanied by the sounds of footsteps.
Chairs moving, sliding and scraping concrete – repetitive - this sound often started at a low pitch and then climbed higher. It had a rough, uncomfortable texture especially at the end of the duration of the sound which would be quite high and piercing. On the rough concrete, the metal chairs made quite a harsh sound. In duration, the sound varied from approximately half a second to two seconds and was incredibly loud, clearly heard over all other ambient sounds. This sound was quite frequent as many people were coming and going, getting up and sitting down.
Phone ringing – unique - relatively high pitched that changed, lower and higher in rhythm almost like a short song. Duration was several seconds before it stopped by picking up the call. Always followed by sounds of talking. Surprisingly relatively low in volume, much quieter than other sounds like chairs sliding and the clattering of cutlery. There was also resonance from the deep, repetitive sound of the vibration on the table. This ringing was only heard in one instance.
Sparklers – unique - sizzling of sparklers, sporadic crackling and snapping sounds, medium pitch, constant sound over a duration of 20-30 seconds. Relatively loud, could be heard over singing and clapping. The sound was mobile, getting louder as it drew closer and quieter again as the source of the sound became more distant. The sound was clear, warm, mellow, and bright. It was heard in only one instance.
Car engine idling – repetitive - cars frequently stopped for short pauses next to the restaurant because of a cross walk. I heard engines quiet down from a rumble to a quiet hum as cars rolled to a stop. Increase in volume and heighten in pitch as cars started again and engines began working, meaning pitch and volume varied. Heard this sound repeatedly usually for a few seconds, not more than 10, in duration. The wheels churning on the pavement could also be heard as a low whirring. Sound was mobile as volume and pitch changed as cars distance from the environment changed.
Ambulance wailing – unique - extremely loud, extremely pitchy ie. changing in pitch constantly and smoothly like a wave. Long duration because it was so loud, the sound could be heard for a long time even though the sound was mobile, volume changing with distance. The sound was harsh and piercing, it was intrusive to the environment as it was loud, obnoxious, and demanded attention. Occurred only once.
Something dropping behind the bar – unique - loud, high pitched, series of layered crashing sounds that lasted a few seconds. Changes in pitch as different items with different weights crashed and made impact. The sound was heavy and disruptive, brassy and piercing, and incredibly loud especially relative to the ambient sounds. The sound was a significant distance away being inside and not outside on the patio, but it was still very clear. Heard only once.
Lighter lighting candles, cigarettes – unique - this sound was heard a few times on separate occasions but not frequently enough to be considered a repetitive sound of the environment. The sound was short in duration, half a second, medium volume, and sounded like a click. There were two clicks to each instance, one when the trigger is pushed down and another when it pops back up, so this is a compound sound, but the click sounds the same in pitch, volume, and duration in both directions. Even with different lighters and different individuals this sound is consistent to its kind.