Sound Bytes: Part 4 of Writing with Sensory Details – Sandi Somers

Beethoven discovered he was losing his hearing as early as age 25. For a musician, nothing could be more disastrous. 

In his depression he wrote,

“Alas! How could I possibly refer to the impairing of a sense which in me should have been more perfectly developed than in other people, a sense which at one time I possessed in the greatest perfection…” 

And yet Beethoven composed the Ninth Symphony while totally deaf. It is a joyous work and includes the well-known song, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”

Following the premiere of this symphony, which Beethoven conducted, the audience broke into thunderous applause. Only when his solo contralto turned him around did he realize how appreciative his audience was. 

Develop Your Skill in Writing about Sounds

Just as Beethoven developed an exceptional inner ear for music and sounds, you can develop depth and meaning to your writing as you focus on the sense of sound. 

Try some of the following prompts:

  • To get a sense of Beethoven’s loss, write about a time you didn’t hear something important. Why did you not hear it? Tell about why you didn’t hear and what happened as a consequence. How did this experience change you?
  • Listen to sounds around you and journal your findings: the silence when you wake up at night, unique sounds while on a walk, the sounds of activity in your family.
  • Listen to conversations at a public place such as a coffee shop. Catch dynamics of the conversation: who leads, who responds and how. Check for how people convey emotions. How could you incorporate this conversation into your writing?
  • What specific sounds are you attuned to? As a bird watcher, I quickly hear bird songs even when concentrating on something else. A mother hears a baby’s slightest whimper in another room. Children eagerly listen for sounds to indicate their father or mother has come home. 
  • Experiment with onomatopoeia, imitative words such as meow, honk, splash. One famous example comes from the poem, “The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes: “Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed.”

From the ideas above, journal a memory or scene, or think of other prompts that will enhance your current writing project. If you are so inclined, listen to music as you write. Then read your article aloud to catch the rhythm and flow of your words.

For reference: (“The Highwayman” poem)

Exec-Sandi-SomersSandi Somers lives in Calgary, Alberta, and is a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship and The Word Guild of Canada.

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