Casa Beleza, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro.
Rio is a thin city (as Calvino would have it), strung out along the coast with famous peaks separating its districts and its beaches. The hills are occupied by older districts (like Santa Teresa) and the favellas spreading poverty stricken and picturesque up the slopes. In the top tiers of the amphitheatre around the bay where we are staying the sound is pretty mixed up though an occasional ship’s horn cuts through the background noise.
In a room with shuttered windows…outside – a terrace, a garden, a quiet street. Each night the dogs barked in the adjacent gardens like they were passing on a message up the street. Sometimes the really insistent dogs would start a cock crowing before sunrise. But sunrise itself brought, not just the crowing of cockerels, but the sound of other, nameless birds. Nameless for me anyway. During the day the most noticeable bird call was that of the parakeets…a proper squawk as they shot past in ones or twos. At dawn the bird songs were more complex…phrases that seemed at first to be straight repeats but actually modified subtly like programmed minimalist music. Melody…gap…shift melody…gap…shift melody…so that after a few minutes the song was recognisable but different. Each avian performer seemed to have an allotted time so there was no chorus…rather there was a series of virtuoso solo pieces. Further away a song like a car alarm but in short bursts.
(On the sharp bend car horns would sound warning other road users of impending collision but only in daylight…at night and early in the morning the headlights performed the same function. And also later in the day not humming hummingbirds would hover outside the window. A silent song).
Ibis Hotel, Avenida Paulista, Sao Paulo
(Double-glazing.) The sound of the refrigerator. Faint traffic sounds and sirens.