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The Sound of Life

In: English and Literature

Submitted By lameyjamie
Words 594
Pages 3
"...the drill operator shuts off the machine, quiets the crowd, and listens. I wonder what it was that he listened for. How faint? How rhythmic? He listens, his hand on the machine until he finally hears or feels the rhythmic noise of the trapped men hammering at the steel- the sole musical evidence of survival." (261-267) in this, Steven Church gives a very illustrative narration of a crowd of people waiting to hear the sound of trapped miners signaling their life from underground. In Church's "Auscultation", the underlying theme is that sound is essential to life. Sound can mean more than words ever could.

Steven Church's "Auscultation" is a 4 chamber essay. Personally, I believe that the 4 chambers represent the 4 chambers of the heart. This is relevant due to the topic of the essay; the sound of life. The first chamber sets the tone by describing a mine that collapsed leaving 6 miners trapped in the deathly grasp of the mountain. The second chamber introduces the stethoscope as an essential part of life. The third chamber expresses the importance of the stethoscope, what makes a doctor a doctor, and the different instruments that a doctor has. The fourth and final chamber ends the essay by describing another devastating collapse leaving 9 coal miners trapped by rising water leaving families as well as other miners on edge about the life of their coworker, friend, or loved one.

The essay compares a baby's heartbeat to the sound of a sledgehammer hitting metal within the womb of the cave -or stomach. This is because both of those sounds indicate life. Church describes this by musing that the doctors are "...hopelessly dependent on the curl and twisting turns of simple listening technology, the only tool for the vital job of reading and feeling the rhythmic thumps of the heart, that tap-tap-tap signal of life we cannot see and I can in no other way sense." (226) Church interprets what the doctors listen for through the stethoscope as being much the same as the sound drill operators listen for when miners are trapped; the sound of life.

The sound of life can be portrayed in many different ways. In the essay, Church gives a few examples. He uses "rap and thump" (14) to illustrate the sound of miners within a collapsed mountain. "whoosh-whoosh" (179), and "tap, tap, tap" (226) are how the baby inside the mother's womb are represented. Sound isn't only important because it depicts life or death, but because it's a way of communication throughout the world. In Chamber 3 it mentions different instruments (i.e trumpet, saxophone, baritone, etc.) which are universal. Music can convey emotions through the sounds it makes without speaking, breaking any language barrier making it important to life.

In Church's "Auscultation", the underlying theme is that sound is essential to life. Sound can mean more than words ever could. Whether it be for communication, or to signal life, sound is imperative. At the beginning of Chamber 1, church paints a picture for the essay by illustrating the chilling atmosphere of everyone waiting to hear the sound of the trapped miners: "...they also erected seismic listening devices on the surface and set off three dynamite charges, a signal to any surviving miners to make noise. Lots of noise. The electronic ears listened for the sound of hammers pounding on the rock and on the roof bolts, the telltale rap-and-thump of human life. we listened and listened but never heard a thing." (8-15)

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